Poetry Friday: Hard to believe it’s been two years!

After I shared the cover of my debut picture book, Flashlight Night (Boyds Mills Press, Sept. 2017) last week, I had a realization: it’s been a mere two years since my debut as a published children’s writer!

I have to thank Lee Bennett Hopkins first and foremost, as it was he who first asked me to be a contributor to his anthology, Lullaby and Kisses Sweet (Abrams, 2015). When I said “Yes!” I had no idea I’d be side-by-side with folks like Charles Ghigna, David L. Harrison, X.J. Kennedy, Jane Yolen, and Jane’s daughter, Heidi Stemple, with whom I share this spread:

(Reprinted with permission; all rights reserved. Click to enlarge)

And while Lullaby was released in March 2015, it wasn’t the only anthology I got to be a part of that month. I also had the pleasure of contributing this poem, in honor of National Cereal Day, to Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong’s Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations (Pomelo Books, 2015):

Picky Eater

I love my Fruit Loops,
love my Trix,
love Cheerios
and even Kix.
I really like
my Apple Jacks –
but please don’t give me
Sugar Smacks,
or stars or squares or flakes
you’ve found –
I only eat, you see,
what’s round.

– © 2015, Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved

And as if that weren’t enough, I was fortunate to be able to contribute three poems to Carol-Ann Hoyte’s Dear Tomato: An International Crop of Food & Agriculture Poems, which also came out that same March! Here’s one of them:

Fair is Fair
(a lesson in Fair Trade)

Mother’s coffee,
Father’s tea,
Sister’s cocoa…
all might be
a farmer’s only
chance to give
his family
a chance to live.

– © 2015, Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved

Five debuts in one month…not too shabby! Of course, it’s still a long, slow process in building one’s career, but since then, I’ve been in anthologies, journals, and Highlights for Kids magazine and at this very moment, I will have 24 children’s poems published – or under contract to be published – through 2018.

Plus, I have my two forthcoming picture books! So I truly feel grateful that I’ve been able to get this far; I know folks who’ve been slaving away at their computers and typewriters for 20+ years and have yet to get to this point, so I never take any of it for granted. I just keep trying to plug away at it, writing when I can, learning what I can, and hopefully build myself a little children’s author career.

Who knows what will happen – but thank you for being part of this ride with me! If you haven’t already, I’d love for you to follow me on Twitter and Facebook so we can keep in touch more easily (the links are below). And be sure to head over to Reading to the Core, where Catherine is hosting Poetry Friday today and celebrating poets and poetry with Kwame Alexander’s new book!

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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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Poetry Friday: “A Lesson in Brevity”

As I mentioned on Tuesday, the world’s biggest children’s poetry competition is underway, and I hope you’ve been following it! (If not, you can learn more HERE)

Once again, I am out in the first round – not sure how that always happens – but I do know my competitor, Alison Dellenbaugh, wrote a cute little poem about Bigfoot that won the hearts of the voters, and I wish her well as she moves on to round 2!

Madness!Poetry, as the contest is called, is a bracketed competition similar to sports brackets, where we start off with 64 teams (or in this case, “authletes”), and after the first round that number is whittled down to 32…then 16…then 8…and 4…until we have two finalists vying for the championship.

So today I thought I’d share the poem I wrote – since I’m out of contention, I’m a spectator now, without the pressure of having to create a winning poem with some random word in 36 hours. I was given the word “behemoth,” and when I thought about how it’s a word meaning some giant ‘thing,’ I immediately thought of an old tale we all know…

A Lesson in Brevity

A young lad named Jack cultivated legumes,
which germinated thaumaturgically.
He met a behemoth hungry for bones
who tried to remove them non-surgically.
Jack quickly absconded down tall vegetation
and thought he might nearly prevail –
but poor dear old Jack was a sesquipedalian
and took too long telling his tale.

– © 2017, Matt F. Esenwine, all rights reserved

I had a feeling that my abundant use of verbose language might be my undoing, but once I nailed down my plan – and punchline – I knew I was going to need to pull out the trusty ol’ thesaurus. And win or lose, I really liked how the poem turned out, and that was the important thing to me.

So be sure to check out all the action (and vote!) at the Madness!Poetry website, and if you’re looking for more poetry, visit Michelle H. Barnes at Today’s Little Ditty for the complete Poetry Friday roundup!

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To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)
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The Madness of Poetry in March

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted on Tuesday – increased parenting duties and less available time to write can put a crimp in one’s blogging schedule – but I had to share a quick little update about a fun competition that is underway. As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, a fun, familiar poetry challenge is back for another year!

What used to be known as MMPoetry (short for March Madness Poetry), has now been reborn with a new website and new name: Madness!Poetry. As in past years, Ed DeCaria at Think Kid, Think! hosts a bracketed poetry competition similar to that famous March college basketball tournament which is full of “madness,” but which we can’t speak of by name due to potential infringement of a registered trademark.

The premise is simple: each of 64 “authletes,” as Ed calls us, competes against another by writing a poem using a specific word we’ve been given. (In my case this year, that word is “behemoth” – which may sound challenging, but it’s better than past words I’ve been saddled with, like “appendage” and “verjuice!”) Fellow writers, teachers, students, and the general public are encouraged to vote for their favorites, and whoever wins each match-up moves on to the next round, then the next round, then the next round…until two authletes go at it head-to-head, mano a mano, to determine the champion.

Ed has been quite a busy fellow; for the past year, he’s been tweaking the structure and voting process, creating a new website, and basically re-branding the entire thing, now that we all have seen just how huge this little idea of his became. You can learn more about Madness!Poetry and see who is battling who by checking out the website HERE.

I submitted my First Round poem on Monday afternoon, and all the poems will be posted Tuesday morning at the Madness!Poetry website – so please check out all the poems as they are posted, vote for your favorites, and keep following along! It’s a lot of fun even if you’ve never written children’s poetry, because some of the solutions the writers come up with in order to use their words are pretty creative. After 4 years of competing, I’ve never made it out of Round 1…so I’m hoping this is the year…we’ll see!

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To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)
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Poetry Friday: “Honesty” – and Billy Collins’ early birthday

poetryfridaybutton-fulllMy friend and fellow writer/blogger Heidi Mordhorst reminded me last week that former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins, will turn 76 on March 22, and told me she was planning on a big shindig today to celebrate a little early. She invited a number of us to share a Billy Collins poem – or Billy Collins-inspired poem – which is precisely what I’m doing.

Collins wrote a poem titled “The Golden Years,” which begins:

All I do these drawn-out days
is sit in my kitchen at Pheasant Ridge
where there are no pheasants to be seen
and last time I looked, no ridge.

The poem, which you can read in its entirety HERE, struck a chord with me, so I decided to write my own poem which expands upon some of what he writes about, but in a much different voice and context…

Honesty

Someone once said
the definition of suburbia
is where they cut down all the trees
and then name streets after them.
Truth is, it’s worse than that.
Everything that was once
is dismissed, removed,
or chased away; trees are only
the beginning.

I knew a family
who lived on Deerhaven Road,
an oxymoron
for there were neither deer
nor was it a haven;
habitat destroyed, the animals
moved on. I’m guessing
they didn’t use the freshly-paved route
connecting a half-mile of houses
bearing their name.

Then there was Rattlesnake Hill which,
once it was suitably transformed
into every urbanite’s impression
of what rural life should be,
contained neither rattlesnake
nor hill.

This is why I much prefer the city
or the country to the soft,
doughy middle. Out in the boondocks
where the bears, deer, fox, and pheasants
have yet to be honored with pavement,
one can watch them wander across streets,
worn and dusty, into the neighbor’s
front yard. Likewise, in the city,
there are no turkeys, moose, or coyotes, and everyone
is fine with that; no one
has taken it upon themselves
to recognize the lack of wildlife
by naming a parkway after them.
City or country, there is no pretending
to be one thing or another; it is an honesty
with oneself, with nature, with the streets
that connect us.

– © 2017, Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved

Heidi is hosting Poetry Friday today, so you can visit the “All-Billy Birthday Extravanganza” – along with all of today’s Poetry Friday links and fun – on her blog, My Juicy Little Universe!

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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!
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Poetry Friday: Poetry Madness Returns!

poetryfridaybutton-fulll(Only, this time…it’s “Madness! Poetry”!)

What am I talking about? Well, back in 2012, Ed DeCaria at Think, Kid, Think! created a children’s poetry competition styled after the NCAA March Madness tournament, where 64 poets (or, “authletes,” as he calls them) would battle each other by writing poems using random words they were given for each round.

It was a lot of fun for 3 years – but then Ed decided to take 2016 off. Those of us who participated each year wondered what he was up to, but we knew he had some plans he was working on. Sure enough, it’s back this year, redesigned, reorganized, and renamed!

I encourage you to learn more at the Madness! Poetry website, where you can learn mroe about the competition, see who’s competing, and – once it gets underway – follow along with all the authletes and poems, and vote for your favorites.

In the meantime, I thought I’d share one of my past poems from the competition. In the competition’s second year, I had been given the word “verjuice” – which is an acidic juice made from unripe grapes or crab apples, or an alcoholic liquor made from that juice. Not exactly a word one would expect to find in a children’s poem, but neither were words like “catatonic,” “ignominious,” or “antediluvian,” all of which found their way into the competition. So I couldn’t complain…all I could do was write the best poem possible, within 35 hours:

Senescence

Drink from the cup of your youth, my child,
sup and be merry while young;
for the feast quickly cools
and verjuice of old fools
is sour and sad on the tongue.

– © 2013, Matt Forrest Esenwine

Yes, a bit heavy for a children’s poem…but that was what I came up with. (And I just had to use a $64,000 word as the title!) Fellow writer and Poetry Friday family member Robyn Hood Black and I battled it out, head to head, poem to poem, and she eventually went on to the next round. But I’ve always been proud of this little poem, so I hope you liked it.

Karen Edmisten is hosting Poetry Friday today, so for the complete Poetry Friday roundup, head on over and say hi and enjoy her “Snow Day” with Billy Collins!

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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!
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To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)
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Poetry Friday: “Beulah Buford,” for Valentine’s Day!

poetryfridaybutton-fulllIn advance of Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d resurrect this little thing that I wrote several years ago…in honor of the emotional rollercoaster young folks go on when it comes to friendship, love, and the opposite sex. Not very tight metrically, but I kind of like it, nonetheless:

Beulah Buford

Beulah Buford picks on me;
calls me names, kicks my knee,
teases me about what I wear,
sticks gum in my books and hair.
I read her Valentine card, and SURPRISE –
it says she wants to apologize!
For now, I’ll stay far out of her way.

I hit her with a snowball at recess today.

© 2013, Matt Forrest Esenwine

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For more (and much better) poetry, be sure to visit Katie at The Logonauts for today’s complete Poetry Friday 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)
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Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!