Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme

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Archive for the tag “picture book”

Poetry Friday is here – with AWESOME news!

poetryfridaybutton-fulllA town-wide brownout that fried my computer.

A family of four battling the worst cold we’ve had in years, simultaneously.

Parents in ill health.

Such are the tribulations I’ve been dealing with over the past two weeks, which is why my blogging has been at a minimum. I apologize for being nearly invisible lately! Fortunately, the computer is back up & running (thank you, Dell tech support!) after hours and hours of re-installs, the family is starting to get over our illness, and my folks seem to be fairly stable…so I’m thrilled that I can finally make the announcement:

I’ve got a book deal!!

It is a pleasure and an honour to announce that I have signed a contract with Boyd’s Mills Press (one of Highlights magazine’s book publishing divisions) to publish my very first full-length picture book, Flashlight Night! I’m also very proud to have the wonderful and highly-esteemed Rebecca Davis as my editor…and now that the manuscript is approved and we can move forward, we’ve been discussing possible illustrators. A few have come to mind, so we’re hopeful one of them will work out!

boyds logo

What is Flashlight Night about? Well, let’s just say it’s a poetic adventure that’s not what it seems. I’ll tell you more as we get closer to publication, which we hope will be in 2017. Keep checking back here for updated posts!

(Now then, if you’ll allow me to pull myself off the ceiling, I’d like to share today’s Poetry Friday poem…!)

This is a tanka – a Japanese form that is similar to haiku but is two lines longer and actually predates the haiku – and was written rather quickly (about half an hour) as part of a Facebook challenge. I was tagged to share four poems in four days by Heidi E.Y. Stemple, the daughter of Jane Yolen and a fine author/poet in her own right, with the requirement that I share each one on my Facebook wall.

Now, I didn’t have to write four new poems, I just had to share four poems – so I simply could have posted some of my favourites of other writers. But that would have been too easy! Instead, I borrowed Heidi’s plan to write four poems about spring on her farm and decided to write four poems about springtime in the woods. The first one I wrote I shared on my wall yesterday (Thursday) morning; the one I’m sharing today is the second of four. Hope you like it:

New Hampshire, Spring

Drone bees search a queen;
tom turkey struts the treeline
white-tailed buck defends
while sparrow sings a ballad.
All woodland, looking for love.

– © Matt Forrest Esenwine, 2015

What will I write tomorrow? No idea! But feel free to connect with me on Facebook (or Twitter, Pinterest, or anywhere else you may find me) and we can keep up with each other!

As you probably know from the title of this post, I’m hosting Poetry Friday today – so please leave your links in the comments and I’ll update the post throughout the day. I’m looking forward to seeing what everyone is up to!

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Laura Shovan shares an excerpt from a new medical poetry anthology (yes, you heard right!) at Author Amok.

Robyn Hood Black provides a recap of a meeting of the Haiku Society of America and a short review of a book of author Jack Kerouac’s haikus at Life on the Deckle Edge. (Kerouac wrote haiku? Who knew??)

Fellow Granite Stater Diane Mayr recaps her time spent – and a poem written! – at the Massachusetts Poetry Festival at Random Noodling; meanwhile, over at Kurious Kitty, a touching Mary Oliver poem pays tribute to one of Diane’s co-workers.

Laura Purdie Salas find inspiration for her “poetryaction” series of poems from Jamie Swenson’s book, If You Were a Dog, at Writing the World for Kids.

What does Pompeii know? Linda Baie shares a poem about that exact question! It was written by a 5th-grade student, and you can see it at Teacher Dance.

Tara at A Teaching Life shares a poem by Gregory Djanikian that seems to speak to all those affected by the end of the school year – the students that are leaving, as well as the teachers that are saying goodbye.

Over at A Year of Reading, Mary Lee Hahn also says goodbye to another school year with her original poem.

In the “Haiku Garden” of Today’s Little Ditty, Michelle H. Barnes features a haiku by award-winning writer Loree Griffin Burns.

I love to hear about young children writing – and Jone MacCulloch recently received a poem from a first-grader, which she shares at Check It Out.

Sally Murphy spent three days at a young writers’ festival and was poetically inspired!

Donna Smith is very proud of a 2nd-grader she’s been working with, who just wrote her very first poems! She shares them both, along with two original poems of hers, at Mainely Write.

Penny Parker Klosterman features another familial collaboration – this time, it’s Julie Rowan-Zoch and her son, Aaron with a funny springtime poem. (although it’s not really that funny for the main character!)

Have you ever “doodled while you listened?” That’s what Heidi Mordhorst is doing over at My Juicy Little Universe, as she shares a page from her writer’s notebook.

If you’re a fan of nursery rhymes, be sure to check out Irene Latham’s review of the new anthology, Over the Hills and Far Away, at Live Your Poem.

It’s Chalkabration time at Reflections on the Teche, where Margaret Gibson Simon shares some poems in chalk that her students wrote just as the school year was coming to a close.

Keri Collins Lewis accepted a poetry challenge from Nikki Grimes and shares her success at Keri Recommends.

This Sunday is Bob Dylan’s birthday, and Jama Kim Rattigan is celebrating with all things Bob…and a meatball recipe! (Yes, there IS a connection) Visit Jama’s Alphabet Soup for the details.

There’s still no water at the No Water River…but there IS Douglas Florian! Renee LaTulippe interviews the author/poet/artist/illustrator/all-around good guy about his brand-new book, How to Draw a Dragon.

Amy Ludwig VanDerwater shares an original poem about writing at The Poem Farm – and is hoping you’ll share your notebooks!

What do Edwin Markham and Mark Knopfler have in common? Aside from the obvious “mark”s in their names, they have Tabatha Yeatts – who shares some words of wisdom from these two gentlemen at The Opposite of Indifference!

At There is No Such Thing as a God-Forsaken Town, Ruth is gearing up for her daughter’s last day of high school and shares a poem from the Poetry Friday Anthology for Middle School.

Catherine Johnson is celebrating Armadillo Day (ok, that’s a made-up thing, but they  SHOULD have its own day, shouldn’t they?) with poems by Eric Ode and Douglas Florian, and her original artwork.

Fats Suela shares two poems by Naomi Shihab Nye, one of the world’s most popular and influential poets (and a favorite of author/poet Kwame Alexander). Head on over to Gathering Books for the poems as well as background info on Nye and her writing.

At Dori Reads, Doraine Bennett reviews Susan Van Hecke’s Under the Freedom Tree and also shares a poem from it.

Otto the Owl Who Loved Poetry is a new book out by Vern Klousky, and Lorie Ann Grover shares a snippet from the book at ReaderTotz.

Lorie Ann also shares an original haiku at her blog, On Point.

Holly Thompson interviews Margarita Engle in Sylvia Vardell’s latest Poet-to-Poet interview series…check it out at Poetry for Children.

You can also visit Holly’s blog, Hatbooks, to read more about her interview!

Little Willow shares a piece from Martha Brockenbrough’s novel, The Game of Love and Death, at her blog, Bildungsroman.

Last but certainly never least, Joy Acey is in the middle of the same “4 poems in 4 days” Facebook challenge that I’m a part of, and she already has two poems up on her blog, Poetry for Kids Joy.

THIS JUST IN! Carol Varsalona is discussing inspiration, process, and notebooks at Beyond Literacy, as she takes part in Amy Ludwig VanDerwater’s “Sharing Our Notebooks” project.

ALSO JUST IN! At Pleasures from the Page, Ramona is enjoying several poetry books by Barbara Esbensen and shares one of Esbensen’s poems – just in time for the end of the school year.

 

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

National Poetry Month: Interview with Margarita Engle

National-Poetry-Month-Logo (2015)

I’m very excited to share another interview today – not just because it’s National Poetry Month, but because it’s with a woman whose writing I truly admire: Margarita Engle.

MargaritaA Cuban-American living in central California, Margarita was the winner of the very first Newbery Honor awarded to a Latino. Her award-winning young adult novels in verse include The Surrender Tree, The Poet Slave of Cuba, and The Lightning Dreamer, winner of the prestigious PEN USA Award.

I first came to learn of Margarita’s work about 5 years ago, when I stumbled upon her historical novel-in-verse, Hurricane Dancers, about the first Caribbean pirate shipwreck. It was the first novel-in-verse I ever read, and I was captivated by the way she used poems from the perspective of each character to move the story.

I’m honored to have Margarita join me today:

First of all, thank you for taking the time for this interview, Margarita – you’re so busy, I can’t imagine how you find any time to write! Three books published in just the past 2 months with more on the way is rather prolific! Seriously, how do you find the time??

Thank you for the invitation to explain that when three picture books are released within a few weeks of each other, it doesn’t mean they were written at the same time. Actually, they were started years apart, but some took longer to be accepted, edited, and illustrated. Release dates for Orangutanka, Drum Dream Girl, and The Sky Painter just happened to coincide, after following widely divergent publishing pathways! As far as finding the time to write, I try to stick to a calm, quiet routine of scribbling a few pages each day.

Well, certainly, publishing is an up-and-down, stop-and-go kind of industry – a book you write today might get picked up and released next year, while one you wrote 5 years ago may still in production! But finding the time to write is only part of the battle…how do you find your topics? Where does your inspiration come from, and how do you know if a potential story idea has what it takes to be publishable?

My historical verse novel topics generally emerge from a combination of reading, travel and daydreaming. Picture books are a bit different. They usually don’t require years of research. Orangutanka, for instance, was already writing itself in my mind even while I was standing in the rain forest, watching wild orangutans at a refuge in Borneo. Drum Dream Girl just danced right into my head after I read about Millo (Castro Zaldarriaga, see below) in a book by her sister.

The Sky Painter was more like a verse novel. I’m a botanist, agronomist, and birdwatcher, so I love writing about great Latino naturalists who have been forgotten by history. However, this one required a lot of research, and was difficult to find a publisher willing to accept a book about someone who was not already “famous enough.”

The problem with the industry’s general prejudice against biographies of people who aren’t famous is that women and minorities were left out of history books. If their accomplishments are ever going to be recognized, we have to start telling their stories now.

OrangutankaDD GirlSky Painter

The follow-up question then has to be, how do you decide what form the story should take – picture book, verse novel, picture book-in-verse, etc.?

Thankfully, that is rarely a struggle. It’s actually one of the truly satisfying stages in the process. I love to experiment, try it this way, try it that way, and ultimately allow the characters to decide. Their voices and the events in their lives offer a certain rhythm. When it feels natural, I proceed.

I need to ask a question that I think only fellow writers will truly understand: do you feel that winning the Newbery helped you gain more confidence in your writing…or did it have the opposite effect, by making you feel the pressure to maintain that level of writing? (If it was me, I think I’d be so nervous about writing my next book I’d never get it done!)

It’s a mixture.  I alternate between days of confidence and months of timidity. The truth is I write best when I’m convinced that my work is unpublishable, and no one will ever read or judge it.  That gives me complete freedom to experiment!

Good point. Nothing is more freeing than knowing you have nothing to lose.

We write well when we don’t worry about being judged. My creative writing professor, Tomás Rivera, told me to write in the moment, for myself, rather than thinking ahead toward publication, something that comes much later, if at all.

Speaking of publication, you’ve become well-known for your verse novels – Hurricane Dancers was the first of that genre I’d ever read, and I was blow away! – but you also apply that format to some of your picture books. Hurricane dancersHow do you go about finding those nuggets of gold you need to craft the individual poems, in order to tell the larger story?

Thank you! Hurricane Dancers is my most complex verse novel. For a simple picture book made of linked poems, I’m generally writing a biographical story. Each poem is a different stage in the character’s life. I don’t know any other way to carry him/her gracefully through time, without adding a lot of clunky facts and figures that I’d rather omit.

Orangutanka is a bit more lighthearted than some of your other books. What was your process for deciding its tone and structure?

I actually love lighthearted picture books, but most of them never find publishers. I have drawers filled with collections of poems on cheerful themes, but in the U.S., there seems to be an expectation that all my work has to be serious. (Tiny Rabbit’s Big Wish is doing very well in Japan – maybe I should move!)

Orangutanka came out in the form of tanka because it’s the form I often use as a travel diary. Visiting a wildlife refuge in Borneo was so profoundly moving, I needed a sensitive form, but also playful, like young orangutans.

Your other new book that just came out is Drum Dream Girl, a biographical picture book about a real-life Chinese-African-Cuban girl, Millo Castro Zaldarriaga, who wanted to be a drummer at a time when that sot of thing was frowned upon. How is writing this type of book different from writing a verse novel? (Some people would say shorter means it’s easier – but anyone who writes for a living will tell you shorter is often much harder!)

Drum Dream Girl is more of an “inspired by” story than a true biography. I didn’t want to load it with facts and figures. I just wanted to evoke the spirit of Millo’s courage, as a ten-year-old girl defying Cuba’s taboo against female drummers. I wanted to avoid discussing the taboo itself in any detail, because it’s part of an extremely complex West African religious tradition that would be confusing for young children.

Many of my picture book manuscripts are extremely short, but sometimes an editor asks me to add detail, and then they have to grow. Fortunately, this one stayed in its original form, leaving plenty of room for Rafael López’ spectacular artwork!

Surrender TreeSilver peopleLightning DreamerPoet Slave

What would you say is the most important consideration a writer needs to make when crafting a verse novel, as opposed to another genre?

The heart is the most important consideration. The heart of the story, the heart of each poem, the heart of each character. I love the verse novel format because like a haiku, it has room for universal emotions, without all the clutter of too many facts and figures. However, I do need to research my subject thoroughly. I need to know those facts and figures, and then I need to choose which ones are truly important to me. The rest can be left out completely, or distilled into a brief prose historical note at the end.

Please tell us about your upcoming new book, The Sky Painter: Louis Fuertes, Bird Artist. What drew you to this particular person?

I love writing about great Latinos who have been forgotten by history, and I love writing about people who are independent thinkers, willing to try something new. Fuertes pioneered the painting of living birds in flight, instead of killing them like Audubon. I think that’s a creative approach that will inspire children! Just because someone is taught to do something destructive, that doesn’t mean he/she can’t figure out a better way to accomplish the same goal.

Ornithologists consider Fuertes to be the best bird artist who ever lived, and he was also a great conservationist at a time when women still wore whole birds on their heads – hats were not just ornamented with feathers, entire specimens of rare and endangered species could be spotted on hats in fashion shows! He talked to women’s clubs, asking them to use ribbons or other decorations, instead of dead birds. It sounds absurd now, but that was the reality of the time. It makes me ask myself: what are we doing now that will seem horrifying in a few decades? How can we change?

Finally, I’d love to know more about your upcoming childhood memoir in verse, Enchanted Air. How different was writing an autobiography from writing the biography of someone else, and how does a writer find the objectivity needed to determine what works and what doesn’t?

Enchanted AirEnchanted Air is subtitled Two Cultures, Two Wings. It’s the story of my childhood summers in Cuba, where I bonded with my mother’s extended family, and fell in love with tropical nature.

It’s also the story of the Cold War, and the loss of travel rights. I know the Missile Crisis affected every child of my generation, but it affected Cuban-Americans in a unique way. Writing this book was excruciatingly painful. I won’t be able to read certain parts out loud without crying. I don’t claim to be objective about something so personal and emotional.

By the way, are there any subjects or even genres you haven’t tackled yet, that you would like to?

That’s a long list! My one great unfulfilled wish is a bilingual picture book. I keep writing them, but none are ever accepted. I also wrote a magic realistic middle grade book that has not found a publisher, but I enjoyed experimenting with fantasy. I’m also enjoying experimenting with a historical verse novel set in my home state of California. I would love to try a collection of natural history poems. I haven’t yet tackled the subject of contemporary Cuba.

Well, thank you so much, Margarita! I appreciate you taking the time to chat.

For more info on any of Margarita’s books, check out her website HERE or simply click any of the book covers above!

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Poetry Cubed logoBy the way, you have one week left to send me your “Poetry…Cubed!” entries for a chance to win one of two books! Last week I shared a new poetry challenge…and I’m looking forward to seeing what you can come up with! It’s my take on the Food Network show, “Chopped!” – but instead of using surprise ingredients from a basket to create a meal, you need to use three photo prompts to create ONE fantastic poem!

(Don’t worry, you won’t be graded…winners will be chosen at random. Get all the details HERE!)

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By the way, Irene Latham’s annual Progressive Poem is…well, progressing – very nicely! A different writer adds a line each day, and today Tara at A Teaching Life adds her touch to the adventure. On April 30, we’ll see where it ends when Yours Truly caps it off with the final line.

You can follow the 2015 Progressive Poem at the following blog spots:

2015ProgressivePoem1 Jone at Check it Out
2 Joy at Poetry for Kids Joy
3 Heidi at My Juicy Little Universe
4 Laura at Writing the World for Kids
5 Charles at Poetry Time Blog
6 Ramona at Pleasures from the Page
7 Catherine at Catherine Johnson
8 Irene at Live Your Poem
9 Mary Lee at Poetrepository
10 Michelle at Today’s Little Ditty
11 Kim at Flukeprints
12 Margaret at Reflections on the Teche
13 Doraine at DoriReads
14 Renee at No Water River
15 Robyn at Life on the Deckle Edge
16 Ruth at There is No Such Thing as a Godforsaken Town
17 Buffy at Buffy’s Blog
18 Sheila at Sheila Renfro
19 Linda at Teacher Dance
20 Penny at A Penny and her Jots
21 Tara at A Teaching Life
22 Pat at Writer on a Horse
23 Tamera at The Writer’s Whimsy
24 Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect
25 Tabatha at The Opposite of indifference
26 Brian at Walk the Walk
27 Jan at Bookseedstudio
28 Amy at The Poem Farm
29 Donna at Mainely Write
30 Matt at Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme

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

Review: “A Rock Can Be…”

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted any new blog entries – save for my Poetry Friday posts – and for that I apologize. My wife and I have been dealing with family problems (ailing, elderly parents), house problems (now that the new $8000 furnace/boiler and $2000 electrical panel are installed, there are ice dams on our roof), and vehicle problems (last Friday, the left rear tire flew off my truck while my wife was driving home – not good).

And of course, here in New England, we’ve been getting major snowstorms every week, which means snow blowing, shoveling, and school cancellations…and until 2 days ago, I was doing it without a snow blower, since ours was in the repair shop.

There has also been some good news, though:  I’ve written two new picture book manuscripts in the past month, which has taken quite a bit of my time, and I also received some FANTASTIC news a few weeks ago that I’m dying to share with you. I can’t say anything yet, but it’ll be a big announcement when I do!

rcb coverSo for today, I wanted to share some other big news…a new children’s book hitting stores this Sunday, March 1!

Wait – has it been a year already? Last April I reviewed author/poet Laura Purdie Salas’ book, Water Can Be… as part of my National Poetry Month celebration, and now here it is 11 months later and she has another book in her series!

Salas’ new book, A Rock Can Be… (Millbrook Press) follows the same concept as Water in that it takes a very simple subject and poetically expounds on it…but she does it with such aplomb you almost don’t realize how deceptively insightful her observations are.

Starting with the idea that every rock has a story to tell, Salas begins, “A rock can be… / tall mountain/ park fountain / dinosaur bone / stepping stone…” and goes on to include volcanoes, phosphorescence, architecture, skipping stones, and many more instances of rocks being more than just “rocks.”

For instance…

rcb_sparkling_ring

 

rcb_book_sheep

(click images to enlarge)

 

As I mentioned in my Water Can Be… review last April, it takes skill, patience, and a creative mind to write simply – and Salas has what it takes. It’s also nice to see illustrator Violeta Dabija, whose artistry can be seen on the previous two books in the series, is back to perfectly complement the text with vivid colour and textured illustrations.

In the back of the book readers can learn more about the rocks and images of which Salas makes note – such as stepping stones, flint, and even the moon. A glossary also helps younger readers to understand some of the imagery and concepts throughout the book.

A delightful read!

NEXT WEEK: Two days after A Rock Can Be… hits bookshelves, the first children’s book I have ever had the pleasure of being part of comes out! Lullaby & Kisses Sweet (Abrams Appleseed) is an unusual book – it’s a poetry anthology in board book form, designed for very young children up to the age of 5.

Lullabye coverI am extremely proud to have worked with the one and only Lee Bennett Hopkins, who edited the book, and to be included in a book that also features poems by such luminaries as Jane Yolen, J. Patrick Lewis, Charles Ghigna, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, David L. Harrison, X.J. Kennedy, Marilyn Singer, and many others. (Salas also contributed a poem, “Spaghetti,” to the collection)

As a first-ever publication, I couldn’t be more thrilled. To learn more about the book, check out this brief review from Publisher’s Weekly! (And once you read it, you’ll see why I’m more than happy to share the link!)

The day it goes on sale, Tue., March 3, I’ll be sharing a special interview with Lee Bennett Hopkins here on my blog. We’ll be talking about how the concept for the book came about, his thoughts on children’s poetry these days, and a couple of new projects he’s working on, so I hope you’ll stop back!

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

Poetry Friday: “Dog Clown”

I’ve been quite busy this week – and if you can’t comprehend just how busy, I invite you to take a peek inside the mind of a writer! This past Tuesday’s post can fill you in…but it doesn’t fill you in on everything.

You see, since I shared that post, I’ve become wrapped up in another project! I had poems I wanted to write, a book to organize…but no. My brain had other plans.

poetryfridaybutton-fulllMonday night, without warning, I was smacked in the cerebrum with an idea for another picture book. While I love coming up with ideas like this, they can be rather bothersome when one already has other plans. I had no choice but to scrap those plans and get to work writing this new picture book.

As with all my picture book concepts, I do a fair amount of research to determine if anything like it is already in the marketplace – and I haven’t come across anything quite like this. That’s a good sign! So now that I’ve completed the first few drafts, I need to work on polishing it.

And then I hope to get back to the manuscript I was working on in the first place!

So for today, I’m sharing something I don’t ordinarily share:  a poem that has only seen one draft. It came about as I was thinking about this new picture book – and even though it has no business being in the book, it still ended up being written, anyway. Poems are funny like that. So I figured I’d share it here, since it may not show up anywhere else, and may never even get a second draft, for all I know. It’s simply a few lines about the “clowns of the dog world,” but it’s my first poem of 2015 so I’m going to post here whether you like it or not!

Last night the thing was stuck in my head; now it’s out and I can move on. Speaking of moving on, if you want to find more poetry, head on over to Tabatha Yeatts’ The Opposite of Indifference for the Poetry Friday roundup!

Dog Clown

In ancient times, dogs guarded castles and kings.
Protected their masters from all sorts of things.
They hunted. They battled.
Today, they might frown
upon seeing my shih tzu – on the bed, upside down.

© 2015, Matt Forrest Esenwine

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

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

A peek inside the mind of a writer

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

The Secret Place

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

I write a random poem.

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

In the course of rewriting it, I write another.

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

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

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

I write a fourth poem.

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

I write a fifth poem.

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

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

I write the sixth poem.

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

Whew!

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

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

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

Or even weeks.

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

Exciting news in the year ahead

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

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

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

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

Whatever your goals, stick to ’em!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do. The. Work!

As I’ve mentioned previously here, it’s been a challenging couple of months for us at home, so I’ve only been able to post sporadically here. I’m hoping that when the new year arrives, things will settle down. But for now, I just wanted to share a thought with you. that thought is:

If you want to do something, the only way you can accomplish it is by actually DOING IT.

I left my position as production director for a 5-station radio group in the Concord, NH area (and the  steady paycheck that went with it) 2 1/2 years ago to work from home as a voice artist and be a stay-at-home dad. I also wanted to spend time developing my children’s writing.

Lullabye cover

The first children’s book in which I’ll see my name! Many thanks to Lee Bennett Hopkins for having the faith in me to ask if I would be willing to write a poem for this.

Well, as of today, I have 8 children’s poems set to be published next year in 6 different publications: 7 poems in 5 different children’s anthologies and one poem in “Highlights” magazine.

These aren’t vanity books or unpaid literary journals, mind you – not that there’s anything wrong with those – I’m getting paid for these things. Children’s writing may be a passion, a talent, and a creative outlet for me…but I plan on making it a career.

I share this news not to boast, but to encourage anyone who has debated whether or not to pursue a dream for fear of failure. I can tell you with 100% assurance that you’ll definitely fail if you don’t try.

Author/poet Jane Yolen and former U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate J. Patrick Lewis claim the best way to become successful is by following what they call the “BIC” rule: Butt In Chair. In other words, DO THE WORK! Don’t wait for something to happen. Don’t complain nothing’s happening. Don’t expect inspiration, coincidence, or luck to suddenly appear out of nowhere and help you achieve your goals.

To be honest, I really can’t say any success I’ve had has been due to luck. As I think about it, “luck” hasn’t played any part in this, as far as I can tell. What has played a big part is mostly just perseverance. And practice.

And more perseverance.

I still have not sold a book manuscript yet, although I continue sending them out. I’ve written several, and I continue writing them. I continue doing the work.

If you can’t count on luck, you’re going to need to count on yourself.

So do the work. Take the chances. Get busy – and don’t let yourself down!

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

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

Poetry Friday: “Coming to Terms,” CYBILS Awards, and a Wandering Wildebeest

poetryfridaybutton-fulllJama Rattigan is hosting Poetry Friday today, and if anyone knows how to create a crowd using food, it’s Jama! She has croissants and chocolate and candied rose petals and raspberry-litchi pate and…well, you’ll just have to stop by and try some.

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago I announced that a new anthology titled, Trigger Warning: Poetry Saved My Life, had just been made available for sale. I was looking forward to seeing it because I was one of the folks whose poetry had been selected for inclusion…and today, I’ll be sharing that poem here!

More on that in just a little bit…

First, I need to let you know the 9th Annual CYBILS Awards nominations are now OPEN!

Cybils-Logo-2014-Rnd2The CYBILS, as they are called, are the Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers’ Literary Awards, and are announced in February of each year. Two rounds of judges will narrow down all the nominated books for a variety of categories, and will decide which they feel are the best of the best.

But before they can whittle down the list…they need a list! That’s where you come in. Just click visit the CYBILS nominations page and let the judges know which of this year’s books for children and young adults you feel deserve some special recognition. As you’ll see, there are lots of categories, from early readers to young adult speculative fiction to my favourite, poetry!

(We already have some FANTASTIC poetry collections, too – which is going to make this even harder then normal!)

So make sure you log on and get your favourite book nominated – and I’ll keep you posted here about what’s happening!

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WildebeestSpeaking of poetry collections, I just received my copy of Irene Latham’s Dear Wandering Wildebeest: And Other Poems from the Watering Hole yesterday, and it’s as wonderful as I had suspected. Many thanks to Irene as well as to last year’s CYBILS Poetry Award winner, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater for sending it to me – I was lucky enough to be the winner of a giveaway Amy hosted, and I read the book as soon as I opened up the box!

The book contains 15 poems of varying styles – some rhyming, some free verse, some light-hearted, some more serious – all about the various creatures that come to visit a watering hole on the African grasslands. Irene spotlights meerkats, rhinos, lionesses, and black mambas, to name a few, but I think my two favourites are the ones Irene opens and closes with, “To All the Beasts Who Enter Here” and “Says Nightjar to the Stars,” respectively.

Anna Wadham’s illustrations perfectly complement the playful, spontaneous, and stoic nature of the beasts, too – and of Irene’s text. If you haven’t considered picking this up yet, I recommend you do!

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Now, then…to my poem! I have to thank award-winning slam poet Zachary Kluckman, the anthologist of Trigger Warning: Poetry Saved My Life, for selecting this poem for inclusion.  When I first read what type of book he was putting together and the subject matter – literally, how poetry can save someone’s life – I knew exactly what I was going to write about.

trigger-warningAbout 25 years ago, a very close friend of mine went through an extremely difficult time in his life…and it nearly destroyed him. Fortunately, he found support from his friends and therapy from writing poetry. I hope you like it.  I’ve posted audio of my reading of the poem below (sorry about the big head – I can’t do anything about it!) and of course, if you’d like to read more about how poetry can save lives, be sure to pick up a copy of the book, on sale now!

Coming to Terms

He had to keep quiet.

No one could know of his love, no –
infatuation – for the tall, dark beauty
with whom he shared daily smiles. His thoughts
were his, yet quickly
he became their slave; not uncommon,
of course, as we all succumb
to that numbness, once, at least,
but for his own sake

he had to keep quiet.
None could know, not even
Dark Beauty, who
had no inkling of an unthinkable
courtship, but simply smiled back
as acquaintances do
until one day, in a burst of emotion and discovery,
every passionate detail of his desire
came pouring forth from every pore
in an unintended self-immolation of love and pain.

The revelation
and cloud of rejection suffocated
and he wished it would
deaden the nerves that allowed him to feel
every word hurled
from Dark Beauty, friends,
parents, the world.
Endless days spent scared and crying
bled into pill-filled nights
that led not to quiet slumber but to weeks
and months
in the ward, safe and distressed. Alone

in his room, with pen
firm between heart and forefinger, line
by line he began to sort through love,
loss, dejection,
reflection
and the realization
he had been lying to himself, thinking

he had to keep quiet.

© Matt Forrest Esenwine, from Trigger Warning: Poetry Saved My Life (Swimming with Elephants Publications, 2014)

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

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

Too busy writing…to write

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

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

Edgar-Allan-Poe - WWPD

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

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

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

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

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

I’m pretty sure these are my children.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Matt Forrest, Dream-Killer

Sweet, loveable me…destroying dreams?

Alas, it appears so.

I am often asked how one starts a career doing voiceovers or writing children’s books. As someone who has been doing voice work and audio editing for 25+ years, I’m happy to share advice, tips, and some guidance.

As someone who has yet to accomplish the feat of getting a children’s book published, I can only offer a few suggestions – like practice, networking, and critiquing. I have had numerous adult poems published in collections over the years and will soon have about 6 or 7 children’s poems published in various anthologies within the next year or two…but that’s a far cry from getting a book deal.

Be that as it may, much of the advice I give can be applied to either industry – and many more.  The reaction I get after giving the advice is often the same, as well.

Notice I called it an industry

Voiceover work and writing children’s books and poetry are similar in that they are both creative pursuits; however, it’s important to not lose sight of the fact that they are, in fact, industries. Businesses. Professional careers that require all the time, effort, and skill that most other professional careers require.

ID-100232154 (water pipe)

Other than turning off the water, I wouldn’t have a clue as to what to do next.

You wouldn’t decide to become an astronaut on a whim. You wouldn’t think that by buying a socket wrench you can pass yourself off as a car mechanic.

You wouldn’t decide to open a plumbing business simply because you once unclogged a drain in the upstairs bathroom and it seemed like easy money.

Unfortunately, there is something about creative media that makes people think anyone can do it. And to be honest, many people can do it – but don’t really want to.

Or rather, they don’t want to hear about the reality of it.

This is where the dream-killing begins…

The first thing I tell folks who ask me how to get into voiceovers or break into children’s publishing is this: learn about the industry. Read blog posts, seek out professional web pages, and get a feel for what is truly involved. There is more to voiceovers than speaking into a microphone, and there’s more to writing children’s stories than “See Spot Run.”

When I tell these well-meaning people that the industry (either one!) is difficult to break into, they first look at me as if I’m trying to keep them out of a secret club or something. Then when I tell them a few of the things they are actually going to need to do, I get the feeling they think I’m trying to scare them away.

I have to implore them not to misunderstand me – that I’m just trying to be honest and blunt with them.

Blunt honesty, it appears, is not popular.

The frightening facts

Some of the nuggets of advice I offer – while not particularly unique or even insightful – are certainly solid for either industry:

– It may be fun, but it’s work, and you need to treat it as such.
– It’s also enormously competitive. The good news is that most of the other folks in the industry are surprisingly supportive!

– If you want to be a professional, understand what that means and what is expected of you.
– It doesn’t matter if you have a “great voice”; what matters is if you can read well and bring a script to life.
– It doesn’t matter if you love kids; what matters is your ability to write and your willingness to revise, over and over.
– Understand that not everyone can do what you are attempting to do. If it was so easy anyone could do it, everyone would.
– Understand that this is a skill requiring training, perseverance, and talent (not necessarily in that order).
– Understand that rejection is a way of life. There is a very, very high likelihood that you will fail multiple times before you even begin to succeed. You might get passed over dozens of auditions before getting that first gig, and you might send out a hundred manuscripts before an agent or editor thinks you’ve got what it takes.
– Tenacity, perseverance, skill, communication abilities, a thick skin, and a sense of humor are your best friends.
– Egos will get you nowhere.

There are plenty of other industry-specific things I might share when chatting with folks about voiceovers or children’s publishing, but I usually lose them at “enormously competitive.”

I’m really not trying to kill dreams…it just sort of happens

Honestly, I’m not sure how many dreams I’ve killed. I know that many of the folks who have emailed me or spoken to me in person over the last few years are not currently pursuing the vocation they had asked me about in the first place.

SCBWII can only make some broad assumptions.

Either they a) got scared and decided to stick with what they were doing; b) thought I was trying to scare them and decided to do it their own way and failed; or c) are still trying to find the time to be able to engage in an industry as competitive as voiceovers (or children’s writing).

These days, I refer voiceover questions to fellow voice artists like Paul Strikwerda, whose book, Making Money in Your PJs, provides as much insight, advice, and blunt honesty as one can handle, or Dave Courvoisier, author of More Than Just a Voice, a book that details the nuts-and-bolts of the industry like marketing, coaching, and equipment. The professional organization World Voices is good place to learn what being a professional voice talent is all about.

For questions about children’s book publishing, writers like Katie Davis, Julie Hedlund, Tara Lazar, Dr. Patricia Stohr-Hunt, and many, many more are all willing to help teach, guide, and inspire. And of course, there’s always the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI), which is a great resource.

So if you happen to be wondering what it takes to get into these industries – or any of the creative arts – don’t let hard work and the fear of rejection stop you from realizing your dreams. Just do the work necessary and plan to stick with it for the long haul.

I’m not really a “Dream-Killer,” after all…just more of a reality-checker.

But hey, if Abe Lincoln can be a Vampire Hunter, why can’t I have an ominous-sounding moniker, as well?

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

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

Poetry Friday: “In the Glen”

Now that I’m finally able to see my computer screen again, I’ve been spending my week furiously trying to get caught up on my voiceover business. I have auditions I need to record, scripts I need to write, and commercials I need to produce – and deadlines that are staring me down. So today, I’m reposting something I originally shared exactly one year ago, on July 19, 2013.

It’s a poem that will always be dear to my heart, not only because it was published but because it is both an adult AND a children’s poem – and since I’ve gained many new followers in the past year, I wanted to give them an opportunity to read it, if they wanted to.  For all of today’s Poetry Friday links and info, Tabatha Yeats is hosting the roundup at The Opposite of Indifference!

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I don’t think I’ve ever posted a previously-published poem here, since I started this little blog nearly a year ago. Today, I am!

poetryfridaybutton-fulllThis was written at least 3 years ago, possibly longer – I wish I could find my original copy that had the completion date on it. But like most poems, it went through several revisions before I was finally happy with it, so it is the most recent revision I’m sharing now.

As I mentioned, this was previously published in the Tall Grass Writer’s Guild’s anthology, Seasons of Change (Outrider p|Press, 2010).  Although it’s a poem more geared to adults, younger folks may very well understand what I’m describing. (And I’m eager to see if you know what the poem is about, too!)

.

“In the Glen”

Old stump
rotting, torn by time, shredded with age
browned and blackened through fires and storms,
impassioned hooves and finely-honed axes.

Long ago, abandoned even by ants and mites and worms
who took what they could, consumed their fill
and, satiated and exhausted,
left
to scavenge elsewhere.
Rings once worn proudly
perfect, circumscribe –
nearly inscrutable
like the history they keep.

In younger years
its boughs bore fruit;
lush canopy,
shade;
firewood,
home,
a vessel.

Now
years after boy,
as old stump dies
softly
bark and pith and fiber
fall away
to compost
and one lone leaf –
green, young,
hopeful –
sprouts forth
from the remains…

old stump
once again
gives.

– © 2010, Matt Forrest Esenwine

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

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

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