The strange, surreal, and oddly exhilarating feeling of holding one’s own book

I just spent this past weekend in Springfield, MA, at the 2017 NESCBWI conference, chatting with fellow children’s writers and illustrators, learning from others in the business, and even getting to have a spur-of-the-moment dinner with former U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate Kenn Nesbitt, who happened to be in the area, Friday night.

So imagine my surprise and delight when I finally got back home after three exhaustively long days, and found this in my mailbox!

(click to enlarge)

I knew the poem was going to be published this spring, but had no idea which issue until I heard from a couple of friends they’d seen it last week…so I was thrilled to receive a couple of contributor copies so quickly!

And as happy as I was about that…it didn’t take long for my friends at Highlights to make me even happier

I opened up a second, much larger and heavier, envelope, and discovered THIS inside:

(click to enlarge)

That’s right, my first copy of my first book – from Highlights’ book publishing division, Boyd’s Mills Press!

I had shared the F&Gs (folded & gathered pages) last week, but it was an entirely new experience actually holding the complete book in my hands and flipping through the bound pages.

(click to enlarge)

I am so honored by the work that illustrator Fred Koehler and the book designers at Boyd’s Mills Press have done…and so grateful to my editor, Rebecca Davis, for her support of my manuscript and the entire project!

Flashlight Night (Boyd’s Mills Press) hits bookshelves Sept. 5, 2017!

Pre-orders are available now by clicking the image of the cover to the right, or if you prefer, you can wait til Sept. 5 and purchase it at your favorite local bookstore!

(Someone pinch me…)

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You still have a few days left to enter my month-long writing challenge, “Poetry…Cubed!” which is based on the premise of the TV show “Chopped!” on The Food Network. 

  • Use the 3 images below as inspiration to write a poem – any form, any genre, any number of lines, rhyming or not. Remember, it doesn’t have to be very good- the mantra around here is to #WriteLikeNoOneIsReading! This is all about having fun and spurring creativity.
  • The only hitch is that you need to include a reference to all three images in the poem – either via concrete imagery or something more abstract.
  • PFAC-front-cover-Nov-30-WEB-jpeg-705x1030Then email your poem to me at Matt (at) MattForrest (dot) com and I’ll share them here on Fri., April 28. Out of all the poems submitted, one lucky writer will be chosen at random to receive a copy of the Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations (Pomelo Books, 2015).

Ready? Here are your three images (click on any to enlarge):

                 

(All images courtesy of Katherine Esenwine

There are only a few days left, so send your poem in to Matt (at) MattForrest (dot) com by Thur., April 27!

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ALSO: Irene Latham‘s annual Progressive Poem continues! Each day throughout April a different person adds a line until we have a complete, 30-poet poem on April 30!

I’ll be adding mine in a couple of days, but you can follow along now and watch the progress; here’s the schedule:

1 Heidi at my juicy little universe
2 Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference
3 Doraine at Dori Reads
4 Michelle at Today’s Little Ditty
5 Diane at Random Noodling
6 Kat at Kat’s Whiskers
7 Irene at Live Your Poem
8 Mary Lee at A Year of Reading
9 Linda at TeacherDance
10 Penny at a penny and her jots
11 Ramona at Pleasures from the Page
12 Janet F. at Live Your Poem
13 Margaret at Reflections on the Teche
14 Jan at Bookseedstudio
15 Brenda at Friendly Fairy Tales
16 Joy at Poetry for Kids Joy
17 Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect
18 Buffy at Buffy’s Blog
19 Pat at Writer on a Horse
20 BJ at Blue Window
21 Donna at Mainely Write
22 Jone at Jone Ruch MacCulloch
23 Ruth at There is no such thing as a godforsaken town
24 Amy at The Poem Farm
25 Robyn at Life on the Deckle Edge
26 Renee at No Water River
27 Matt at Radio, Rhythm and Rhyme
28 Michelle at Michelle Kogan
29 Charles at Poetry Time
30 Laura Purdie Salas at Writing the World for Kids

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

Poetry Friday: “Flashlight Night” advance peek!

What better month to showcase my debut picture book than National Poetry
Month?? Even though it’s not a book of poetry, it is still a very “poetically-written” sort of book, and I’m so thrilled to have received something we call f&g’s (folded and gathered) in the mail yesterday.

These are like advance review copies, although they are loose pages and not bound. But they are a great way to see the finished product before final production gets underway…and I’m stunned at how beautiful it’s looking!

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Are you ready??

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Be sure to click the image to enlarge…

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…and believe me, you’re going to want to enlarge…!

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Hasn’t illustrator Fred Koehler done an amazing job? I also have to give credit to the book designers at Boyds Mills Press for creating a partial glossy cover – most of the cover is a matte finish, but the flashlight beam is glossy, which really makes the cover stand out. I couldn’t be more proud!

Flashlight Night (Boyd’s Mills Press) hits bookshelves Sept. 5, 2017!

Pre-orders are available now by clicking the image of the cover to the right, or if you prefer, you can wait til Sept. 5 and purchase it at your favorite local bookstore.

(Good grief, this is all really happening…)

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As for today’s poem, I have two! These are entries in this little month-long writing challenge I call “Poetry…Cubed!” which is based on the premise of the TV show “Chopped!” on The Food Network. 

  • Use the 3 images below as inspiration to write a poem – any form, any genre, any number of lines, rhyming or not. Remember, it doesn’t have to be very good- the mantra around here is to #WriteLikeNoOneIsReading! This is all about having fun and spurring creativity.
  • The only hitch is that you need to include a reference to all three images in the poem – either via concrete imagery or something more abstract.
  • PFAC-front-cover-Nov-30-WEB-jpeg-705x1030Then email your poem to me at Matt (at) MattForrest (dot) com and I’ll share them here on Fri., April 28. Out of all the poems submitted, one lucky writer will be chosen at random to receive a copy of the Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations (Pomelo Books, 2015).

Ready? Here are your three images (click on any to enlarge):

                 

(All images courtesy of Katherine Esenwine

The first poem I’m sharing today is by Linda Baie:

Discovery

Sit. Look long into that bloom.
Place its picture show in your mind,
the first love story.

– © 2017 Linda Baie, all rights reserved

I told Linda the term “picture show” is very evocative, in terms of connecting the photos, and I thought she did a great job with such sparse text.  The second poem is by a writer who wished to remain anonymous – so I was happy to honor his wishes, as long as I could share his poem:

Iris

lens focused,
you opened to
picture-perfect
color, clarity
of vision;
one world
within a single
delicate frame

– © 2017, anonymous

I love how the word “iris” ties all three pictures together (a flower, an eye, and a drive-in movie screen – which needs a camera’s iris to create a motion picture)…that never even occurred to me when I selected these photos.

You’ve still got two weeks left, so send your poem in to Matt (at) MattForrest (dot) com before Thur., April 27!

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ALSO: Irene Latham‘s annual Progressive Poem continues! Each day throughout April a different person add a line – until we have a complete, 30-poet poem on April 30!

I won’t be adding my 2 cents worth until later in the month, but it’s fun to follow along and watch the progress; here’s the schedule:

1 Heidi at my juicy little universe
2 Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference
3 Doraine at Dori Reads
4 Michelle at Today’s Little Ditty
5 Diane at Random Noodling
6 Kat at Kat’s Whiskers
7 Irene at Live Your Poem
8 Mary Lee at A Year of Reading
9 Linda at TeacherDance
10 Penny at a penny and her jots
11 Ramona at Pleasures from the Page
12 Janet F. at Live Your Poem
13 Margaret at Reflections on the Teche
14 Jan at Bookseedstudio
15 Brenda at Friendly Fairy Tales
16 Joy at Poetry for Kids Joy
17 Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect
18 Buffy at Buffy’s Blog
19 Pat at Writer on a Horse
20 BJ at Blue Window
21 Donna at Mainely Write
22 Jone at Jone Ruch MacCulloch
23 Ruth at There is no such thing as a godforsaken town
24 Amy at The Poem Farm
25 Robyn at Life on the Deckle Edge
26 Renee at No Water River
27 Matt at Radio, Rhythm and Rhyme
28 Michelle at Michelle Kogan
29 Charles at Poetry Time
30 Laura Purdie Salas at Writing the World for Kids

poetryfridaybutton-fulllIf you’re still looking for more poetry, Doraine Bennett is hosting Poetry Friday today at Dori Reads, so head on over for the complete poetic roundup!

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

Poetry Friday: “Flashlight Night” cover reveal!!

Flashlight…opens up the night.

Leads you past old post and rail
along a long-forgotten trail
into woods no others dare,
for fear of what is waiting there…

So begins Flashlight Night, my debut picture book illustrated by the incredibly talented Fred Koehler and published by Boyd’s Mills Press. Today is an exciting day for me…I not only get to reveal the cover, but I also get to share the RELEASE DATE!

Flashlight Night is an unusual bedtime story about three children who discover unexpected adventure with just a flashlight and their imagination. And while most folks may not think of a picture book as being typical “Poetry Friday” material, I wrote this manuscript very ‘poetically,’ so to speak.

I began writing it as a poem on my way home from a gathering of local SCBWI members in the summer of 2012 – not really knowing where it was going or what it would become – and by the time I got to my computer, I had most of the first and 2nd stanzas completed. The next day, I worked on it some more, still trying to flesh out the middle…and by the end of the week the first draft was completed!

I will always remember getting that phone call from my editor at Boyd’s Mills Press, Rebecca Davis, the following January, telling me she and the editorial staff loved it and wanted to buy it. And I’m so grateful for Rebecca’s guidance and support!

So without any further ado…I present to you, “Flashlight Night”:

(click to enlarge!)

Fred Koehler did an amazing job with the illustrations, creating a second, underlying narrative to my text…and was so taken with the story when it was first presented to him, decided this would be his first-ever picture book illustrated using traditional media (pencil, pen and ink).

So Fred drew everything freehand, inked it in, then scanned the pictures into his computer for colorization. And he even took a 2-week trip to the UK last year to study architecture and historical artifacts to prepare for the project. (I told him I apparently did this all wrong – I should never have written the story first. I need to take a vacation, THEN write a story, so I can write it off my taxes!)

Flashlight Night hits bookstores Sept 5, but is available to pre-order on Amazon already! Of course, if you would prefer to wait until it arrives at your local bookstore, that’s great, too!

And remember, since it’s Friday, there’s all kinds of cool poetry out there in the blogosphere…be sure to stop by Life on the Deckle Edge, where Robyn Hood Black is hosting Poetry Friday!

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

Oh, what one can accomplish when the kids actually behave

I want to take a moment and thank my two young children for whatever success I may have down the road with my writing career.

Granted, whatever success I may enjoy would probably have come sooner had I not had to keep stopping to tell the 6-year-old to stop running through the house half-naked while playing with the TV remote…and it might have come sooner still had I not had to tell the 3-year-old 67 times to stop pulling her clean clothes out of the dresser and throwing them all over her room and just take a nap, for the love of Pete.

But still, I would have no success at all without those two little devils angels because they – and their older siblings – are the reasons I write for children in the first place. Being a stay-at-home dad, I may barely have a career as it is…but I’d have no career whatsoever without them.

And no one to go sledding with, either.

“You got yourself down there, you can get yourself back up!”

So today, I just wanted to give thanks for the inspiration, love, and exhaustion that my kids provide me. For the past several months, I’ve had a difficult time getting any significant writing done; the 3-year-old is rarely taking naps now, so my work time is severely diminished, and now that she has been waking up at 2 or 3am every other night, I’m only getting 4-5 hours of sleep at night if I’m lucky.

But today, for some reason, went differently.

I don’t know if it was the fact we had our first real snowfall of the season (the 3-year-old spent a good hour outside with me in the morning before I’d even had breakfast), but for some reason she was exceedingly helpful today. And as it turned out, today was THE day I needed her to help me out.

Somehow, I managed to get some commercial television voicework recorded and sent off to an agency in Baltimore with whom I work on a regular basis…I wrote two boyds logoversions of a poem for an upcoming anthology due out in the next few years…made final revisions to the text of my upcoming debut picture book, Flashlight Night (Boyd’s Mills Press, Fall 2017)…began work on another new poem for another project…AND managed to shovel the property, twice!

Oh, and I wrote a blog post. 😉

And once the 6-year-old came home from school, I was even able to clip enough evergreens from around the property to fill our house’s four large window boxes, and start getting more greens together for our wreaths.

Granted, I got almost no housework done – hey, something’s gotta give, right? – but days like this are few and far-between lately, so I needed to try to make the most of it.

And if I know my 3-year-old daughter, I’ll be spending most of tomorrow doing laundry, dishes, and vacuuming. And picking up clean clothes off the floor. After all, I can’t expect her to give me two of these kinds of days in a row.

But the snow is still on the ground, so anything’s possible.

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

Children’s poetry writing status report: full steam ahead!

One Minute coverWe are less then one month away from publication!

I’m so thrilled to be a part of Kenn Nesbitt’s new children’s poetry anthology, One Minute Till Bedtime (Little, Brown for Young Readers, 2016), which officially hits stores Nov. 1. The following week, I’ll be holding a couple of signings at local bookstores in my home state of New Hampshire, so if you’re in the area, I hope you’ll stop by! (Keep following this blog for more details)

The book is comprised of short, 60-second(ish) long poems for kids – a great way to encourage them to read poetry, of course, but also a nice, accessible way for parents to add in some poetry at the end of a day, after the kids have been read to and are tucked in bed.

As I have mentioned here before, I’ve been writing forever but only became serious about being published in children’s literature a mere 6 years ago…so the fact that I have already found myself sharing anthology pages with folks like J. Patrick Lewis, Jane Yolen, Nikki Grimes, Charles Ghigna, David Harrison, Jack Prelutsky, and so many more makes my head spin.

boyds logoI’ll also have another poem in an upcoming new Lee Bennett Hopkins anthology; another in a high-profile anthology due out in 2018; two poems in “Highlights for Kids” magazine; and three in a soon-to-be-published anthology coming out this fall, courtesy of poet/blogger Michelle H. Barnes.

In addition, my two debut picture books – Flashlight Night (Boyd’s Mills PressPow logo), illustrated by Fred Koehler, and Don’t Ask a Dinosaur (Pow! Kids Books), co-authored with my friend and critique group partner, Deb Bruss – are both scheduled for release in Fall 2017.

So thank you for being a part of all this…I couldn’t have done any of this without social media, and that means I couldn’t have done it without YOU. Blog readers, poetry fans, fellow writers, and Facebook/Twitter followers…whether you realize it or not, your support has helped me grow, improve, and become published.

Please know how much I appreciate it! I hope you’ll remain with me for all the fun stuff coming soon in the months and years to follow. Full steam ahead!!

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

 

Another big announcement: another book!

boyds logoIt was 4 years ago today that I began this little blog, to help promote my voiceover business and children’s writing career. And it was just a little over a year ago, one day when I was hosting Poetry Friday, that I announced I had just signed my very first book deal for a full-length picture book, Flashlight Night. Scheduled for release in Fall 2017, the book is to be published by Boyd’s Mills Press and illustrated by Fred Koehler.

Today, I’m proud to announce I’ve just signed my SECOND book deal!

Co-authored with children’s writer Deb Bruss, my friend and critique group partner, Don’t Ask a Dinosaur was just picked up by editor Jordan Nielsen and the Pow logogood folks at Pow! Kids Books, a subsidiary of Powerhouse Books of New York City.

Don’t Ask a Dinosaur is also scheduled for a Fall 2017 release – which means I’ll have TWO debut books coming out at the same time!

I have to admit, I’m as shocked as anyone to learn about this news. I’ve been writing all my life, but only decided to make a concerted effort to become published in the field of children’s literature about 7 years ago, in 2009.

One Minute cover
(click link to pre-order!)

Since then, I have had 8 children’s poems published in 5 different books, plus I’ll have another one in Kenn Nesbitt’s upcoming anthology, One Minute Till Bedtime (Little, Brown for Young Readers, Nov. 2016), two poems in “Highlights for Kids” magazine, and three others in a soon-to-be-published anthology coming out this fall, courtesy of poet/blogger Michelle H. Barnes.

And for more great news: I’ll also have another poem in an upcoming new Lee Bennett Hopkins anthology!

This comes out to a total of 15 poems and two full-length books in just 7 years…which is what is so shocking to me. I know people who have been trying to get published for 20 years or more and are still struggling, so I kind of feel bad! I don’t want to be”jumping ahead” in the line, you know??

But if there’s any lesson to be learned, I suppose it is that one needs to buckle down and get serious about the craft: write something everyday; try to learn something new about the craft everyday; surround yourself with people who are better than you (either via social media, the SCBWI, critique groups, or some other form of networking); and never, ever, ever let a negative comment, a criticism, or a rejection letter slow you down.

I’ve heard stories about how some writers hold onto their rejection slips as motivation. Some writers look at a rejection letter as a badge of honor. Me? I throw them out as soon as I read them – I figure I don’t need the negativity in my life!

Now, granted, some are actually quite nice as far as rejection letters go, and some can be quite positive and even helpful – so I may hold onto those now and then. But generally speaking, the rejection letters hit the circular file before the mailman has even pulled away from the curb.

So I just had to share the news about the new book…Deb and I are so excited to know that our little Don’t Ask a Dinosaur manuscript has finally found a home, after 18 revisions and almost as many rejections!

I’ll be sharing more news about both books as we get closer to publication date. Until then, I’ve got at least 10 other manuscripts I’m submitting around the publishing world – and I won’t take “no” for an answer!

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School will be starting in just a few weeks…if you’d like me to come to your school (or Skype!) and help students learn about creative writing, poetry, and using the imagination, just click the link for more info!

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

Throwback Summer 2016: My very “first” children’s book

Last week, I told you about the discovery I made while cleaning out my parents’ attic: assorted school papers, projects, journals, etc. It really has been both fun and enlightening to look back on all this material and see how it all worked together to help develop my writing style, my sense of humour, and my very personality.

Today, I’m sharing what is probably the most astounding treasure in the entire trove: the very first children’s book I ever wrote!

(Feel free to click on any to enlarge)

Davy BF 1
(If the sun is behind a cloud behind that wall, where the heck did that shadow come from??)

Titled Davy’s Best Friend, it’s a story about a lonely boy whose shadow comes to life and takes him to the land (or rather, cloud) where shadows are created.

I particularly like the part where he goes up…

Davy BF 2
Omigosh, all the shadows have disappeared!! Oh, wait – no…it’s just poorly illustrated.

…and up!

Davy BF 3
That’s right – page 25, and we’re only halfway through the book! At 60 pages in length, it’s a bit…long)

While I don’t recall much about the specifics of the project – indeed, I had forgotten I had even written it in the first place – I do remember that it was a significant part of my high school senior year Creative Writing class, which would put this circa Spring 1985.

Professionally speaking, the text is bland and wordy, and although my teacher loved the originality, I view the story and imagery as an amalgam of Peter Pan, Where the Wild Things Are, and every lonely-boy-as-hero book ever imagined. Ironically, the illustrations, while admittedly amateurish (rendered well before my college art classes), are probably one of the strongest aspects of this thing -and it wasn’t an art class project!

But I got a 100 for it, so I can’t complain. Oh, by the way, Davy does return home at the end…

Davy BF 4
(What happened to the buildings’ shadows? Are they on holiday??)

Someone had asked me if I was concerned about sharing this online, in case someone might take the idea for their own. I said, if someone wants to try publishing a book based on this…good luck to them! Their manuscript would need so much work and revision I’m not sure anyone would be able to tell where the original idea came from.

Now, this all causes me to wonder what would have happened to my life, had I decided to study children’s writing in college instead of the ‘lucrative’ world of radio broadcasting. (“Lucrative” is a rather sarcastic word, I admit…by the time I had left full-time employment in radio in 2012, with a BS and 25+ years experience, I was making less than a first-year teacher at the local elementary school, in a town of 3000 people).

Would I have failed extraordinarily and ended up in radio, anyway? Would I be doing something else entirely? Or would I already have 400 books to my name, a school named after me like my friend David Harrison, and Jane Yolen scratching her head, wondering, “How does that guy DO it?”

Ah, well…who knows. At least I’m writing now, and getting published now. It may be amusing to look back on our younger days and wish we could have had just an ounce or two of the wisdom we have now, but all we can do is move forward starting with today.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a manuscript I need to work on…

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