Poetry Friday: The craft of verse novels, the value of randomness, and the perfection of “Tuck Everlasting”: an interview with David Elliott

As I mentioned here early last month, it’s been quite awhile since I’ve formally interviewed my friend and neighbor David Elliott – about 9 years, actually, in 2013.

I published our interview for the former “Poetry at Play” blog, which I reposted HERE. At the time, David’s poetry collection In the Sea (Candlewick, 2012) had just come out and On the Wing (Candlewick, 2014) was – well, on the wing – with a publishing date of 2014.

It’s funny…David and I bump into each other all the time at the local grocery store or coffeehouse, I have about 2 dozen garlic plants growing courtesy of some bulbs he’d pulled off his property last year, he even helped the previous owner of our house paint the interior before she sold it to my wife – yet for some reason I have yet to feature him here at the ol’ Triple-R.

So I decided that needed to be corrected!

Thanks so much for taking the time to chat, David! While you’ve authored several popular picture books and poetry collections, one of the things I wanted to do today is get into the nuts and bolts of writing verse novels, the popularity of which has really skyrocketed within the last 5 years or so.

Looking back at your first verse novel, Bull (HMH Books for Young Readers, 2017), how did you decide that a verse novel was the genre it required? I know you’ve said that Poseidon’s voice kept speaking to you (a wonderfully bizarre experience that only fellow writers can fully appreciate) before you realized what to do with it – but why verse rather than prose?

Years ago, long before I thought of becoming a writer, my very prescient wife gave me a copy of Richard Wilbur’s translation of Moliere’s Tartuffe and The Misanthrope. I am still amazed at what both Wilbur and Moliere were able to do, the fluency of those rhyming couplets, I mean, the way the metered language sounded so natural. Though I didn’t know it at the time, I think the seed was planted then for Bull and the other verse novels, too.

Of course, the myth of Theseus has its antecedents in Ovid, so verse seemed a natural, even appropriate way to tell the story. By the way, I’m not sure that I agree that it’s only writers who can appreciate the workings of the Unconscious, which is I think where Poseidon was speaking from. Dialogue between the deeper Self and the ego is available to everyone. It just requires a little practice.

Do you approach the structure/characterization/outlining process in a similar manner for both verse and prose novels, or do you use a different method of organization?

Oh dear. Organization? What’s that? While a book’s architecture is vital, I never know what it is until I’m in the middle of writing it. For me, it’s very analogous to Alice’s experience through the looking glass. Never linear, and often arriving frustratingly late in the process. Very messy. I worked on Voices at least six months before I began to understand even a little bit what I was doing. It turned out to be nothing like what I had proposed. I try as hard as I can to let the narrative tell me what it wants to be rather than forcing my own idea onto it. I try, I say, but I’m not always as successful as I would like to be.

You love experimenting with poetic forms, from classic formal verse to free verse to even concrete poems like the ones in Voices: The Final Hours of Joan of Arc (HMH Books for Young Readers, 2019). How do you decide which forms/styles to use? Is it strictly according to what you feel works best for a particular character, or is there more to it?

Once I understood that Bull was going to be in verse, I also understood that each of the characters in the story were going to have to speak differently. Poseidon, after all, is a very different entity from Ariadne. I was fortunate enough to have a copy of Miller Williams’ Patterns of Poetry on my shelf. I picked it up, closed my eyes, thought of the character, and then like a prankster with a phone book, thumbed through it, stopped randomly, pointed to a page, and whatever form was listed there is what I used for that character.

Idiotic, I know.

But I soon realized that the forms were shaping the characters in ways that I could never have imagined, so I’m not sure it was as idiotic as it sounds though I wouldn’t recommend it as a way of writing a book. Voices was a little more intentional, though it took me a very (very!) long time to find Joan’s voice. The Seventh Raven (HMH Books for Young Readers, 2019) was more intentional still.

(Matt’s note: You can read my post about The Seventh Raven HERE)

You’ve said you love the work of folks like Roald Dahl, Robert Louis Stevenson, Natalie Babbit, and several others. At this point in your career, can you share the influence they’ve had on your work?

I love Roald Dahl’s humor, his irreverence. But what I love most about him is the courage to bypass adults and speak directly to children. That subversive, almost conspiratorial element is in good part what makes him so appealing to so many kids. It’s very easy to fall into the trap of writing for the gatekeepers, all the adults who read children’s lit rather than writing for the kids themselves. Those are two very different audiences. I think Dahl understood that almost better than anyone else, and it is what I most admire about him and his work.

As for Stevenson, simply put? He knows how to tell a story. I read Kidnapped and Treasure Island almost every year, and each time I do, I get the same thrill I did when I read them first as an adolescent. There are very few books that do that for me now

Natalie Babbitt? There isn’t enough time. The only thing I can say is that to me Tuck Everlasting is a perfect book. Perfect. And I say that as a writer and a reader. I still get weepy at that prologue, and as for the book’s structure and sentence-level writing, don’t get me started. As I said recently in another interview, Lewis Carroll once wrote that fairy tales are “love gifts.” I never understood that until I read Tuck.

Here’s a question to make you think:  what would you love to write – genre, subject, anything – that you don’t feel you’re ready to write yet?

I spent my twenties traveling, living mostly by the seat of my pants. I washed cucumbers in Greece. I ate curried goat with sultans in the Sulu Archipelago. I made popsicle sticks in Israel. I sang at a bar in Mexico. I sat with Berbers at the edge of the Libyan Sahara.  Along the way, I met a German girl who carried a violin she couldn’t play, a woman who became the Pope’s webmaster, a guy who had been involved in the FLQ ‘s kidnapping of Quebec’s provincial Deputy Premier, and many more.  I hope someday to be able to write about those years and those people.

So what’s up next on the ol’ publication timeline?

Over the next few years, I’ll have three more picture books in the Candlewick poetry series: next year, At the Pond, with amazingly beautiful illustrations by Amy Schimler-Safford; the year following, At the Poles illustrated by the great Ellen Rooney; and finally In the Sands, illustrator TBD. Next spring, Little Brown is publishing Color the Sky, illustrated by none other than Evan Turk. (I’m speechless at what he has done with a very simple text). I’m currently writing a spooky and adventure-filled middle grade with my son, which we’ll have an announcement about soon.

Wow, it’s great to hear you have three more of those poetry collections on the way! (You know I’m still waiting to see one about microscopic animals titled “Under the Slide” – that needs to happen, ha!) And I can’t wait to see what Evan Turk did with your words – he’s an incredibly gifted and stylistically unique illustrator. Well, thanks so much for taking the time to chat, my friend – and best wishes with Raven and all these upcoming projects.

Thanks so much, Matt. Always a pleasure.


Speaking of poetry, I would be remiss to not congratulate my friend and longtime Poetry Friday family member Mary Lee Hahn on her FINAL MONTH OF TEACHING! Woo-HOO!!

Mary Lee is an incredible supporter, teacher, and writer of poetry who joined me, Liz Steinglass, Heidi Mordhorst, and Laura Purdie Salas two years ago in Baltimore at NCTE’s annual conference for our panel presentation on teaching poetry through “inquiry.” It was so nice to be able to meet these friends in person, having known them all for so many years through Facebook, blogs, and social media channels.

Happy retirement, Mary Lee – I’m guessing you’re going to be even busier now that you’re no longer working, ha!

L-R: Mary Lee Hahn, Liz Steinglass, Yours Truly, Heidi Mordhorst, Laura Purdie Salas

For today’s complete Poetry Friday roundup, head over to Wondering and Wandering, where Christie Wyman is not only celebrating Mary Lee’s career with poetry – she’s celebrating the fact it’s her birthday! Happy birthday, Christie!


I’m now a part of the BOOKROO family!

Children's Book Subscription: Bookroo - Sincerely Stacie

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

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


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

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

Click any of the following covers to order!

Just click the cover of whichever book you want and send a comment to the good folks at MainStreet BookEnds in Warner, NH requesting my signature and to whom I should make it out. (alternatively, you can log onto my website and do the same thing) They’ll contact me, I’ll stop by and sign it, and then they’ll ship it! (Plus, you’ll be supporting your local bookseller – and won’t that make you feel good?)


Thank you to everyone for your support!




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

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

Poetry Friday, from the archives: My first Pinterest poem

I admit, it seems like an odd subject for a blog post…but hear me out.

While I was contemplating what poem to share today, I realized I hadn’t updated my Pinterest page in a couple of months – and I had shared a lot of news & poetry! So I began combing through my blog posts, making sure everything since late April (did I mention I was a bit behind?) had been pinned to my Writing/Poetry Board.

Out of curiosity, I thought I’d scan through my board to see if I could find the first poem I had pinned…and when I found it, I realized I had picked the poem I should share.

Originally posted on my blog May 17, 2013, the poem just felt right for today:

Summer Frost

It was unexpected.

Deep, deep in July, all humid, torrid,

when blushing Brandywines, full and ripe

hang heavy, tearing from their vines

and dragonflies dart between empty rows…

(you can read the poem in its entirety HERE)

If you’d like to connect on Pinterest, I promise to try to keep myself updated! And for more poetry, be sure to head on over to My Juicy Little Universe, where Heidi Mordhorst is hosting Poetry Friday today with a review of Chicago’s Summer Poetry Teachers’ Institute and a poem she wrote following one of the sessions!

And by the way, if you’re in the New Hampshire area tomorrow (Sat., July 21), I’ll be at Toadstool Bookshop in Keene, NH for a special Author’s Open House with Vermont author Jessie Haas! Starting at 2pm, we’ll be discussing publishing and marketing children’s books, read a couple of our own, and then hopefully sign a few. For more details, check out their web page HERE.


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

  (coming Sept. 25, 2018!)

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

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


Thank you to everyone for your support!


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

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

On wide nets, the gift of ignorance, and an excessive use of White-Out: What I learned at #NESCBWI18

Another NE-SCBWI (New England chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators) Conference is in the books, and as always, it was an overwhelming success!

One of the biggest benefits of the conference, which took place April 20-22, is networking:  agents, editors, and fellow writers all converge on this one location to meet, chat, and dine with each other, which is worth the price of admission itself. The varied workshops and high-profile speakers are huge draws, too, of course, but the importance of the social aspect of this conference cannot be overstated.

That said, I always like to share a few choice tidbits of wisdom gleaned from the experience; some of it inspirational, some incidental. This list is by no means exhaustive, and even what you read here is a snippet of what you would have learned had you actually been there. So if you are an SCBWI member, please consider attending your next local conference!

  1. Jane & I have known each other for 7 years now, but there’s been no photographic proof until now!

    Writing is a vocation as much as it is an avocation. Jane Yolen reminded us of this fact during the Opening Ceremonies Friday evening. We write (or illustrate) not only because we are drawn to it as an occupation for which we each feel particularly suited, but because we enjoy it – and would be doing this even if it were not our profession.

  2. Learn to be happy, find the joy, recognize the encouragement! Author Rita Williams-Garcia was Sat. morning’s keynote speaker and related her experiences of going from wannabe writer to award-winning author with humility and humor. She explained that early on in her career, she was so focused on writing and “being an author,” she was missing out on the happiness that comes from sharing your books with the world and the joy of children being inspired by your work. She has since learned how to embrace life, career, and all that goes with them.
  3. Cast a wide net. Author/illustrator Dan Santat is a familiar face here at the conference, and is always inspiring. During one of his workshops, he was explaining how and why he enjoys different projects: one might be a picture book all his own, another might be a middle grade chapter book or

    Perennially, one of the longest lines during book-signing is Dan’s!

    graphic novel written by someone else. He said that he keeps hearing people talking about “finding your style” or “finding your voice” – but what happens when that style or voice is no longer en vogue? It is best, Dan suggested, to stretch yourself and be marketable across a wide range of genres and styles – if you plan on maintaining a career by working in the industry for the long haul.

  4. You can always tell which conference day it is, based on breakfast attendance. This is something I’ve noticed each year, and I just find it amusing. Saturday morning, the ballroom is filled to capacity! The foyer is a buzz with attendees smiling and chatting, grabbing coffee, fruit, pastries, and cereal, and finding their seats before the keynote begins. Everyone is full of energy, catching up with friends and acquaintances and  gearing up for a weekend of inspiration and education! Sunday…half of those people are still in their rooms trying to wake up, while those of us who do make it to breakfast – while still happy and amiable – are visibly much, much slower. Definitely a two-coffee morning.
  5. Dr. Seuss used way more White-Out than anyone ever realized. This was a revelation that illustrator Matt Phelan shared during Sunday’s keynote.  He had visited a children’s illustration exhibit at a museum where some of Dr. Seuss’ original works were on display and one rather large piece had what Matt described as an “inordinate amount of White-Out all over it.” He said this immediately humanized the man, as he realized that even a master such as Theodor Seuss Geisel made plenty of mistakes along the road.
    Matt also credited his success to the “Gift of Ignorance,” a reference to Orson Welles’ explanation of how he created the cinematic masterpiece, “Citizen Kane.” Welles’ claimed that he made a movie unlike any other because he had never made movies, and no one ever told him how to make

    Hanging out with friends and fellow authors at Saturday night’s annual Volunteer Dinner.

    one or not make one! Matt likened it to walking along a cliff: if you know you’re on a cliff, you’re going to be safe and careful and do everything you’ve been told in order to save yourself. If you don’t know you’re walking along a cliff, you are much more likely to be carefree and less fearful.

  6. “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” This quote from the late poet Maya Angelou was shared by one of the speakers – although I cannot for the life of me remember who! After racking my brain trying to recall, it occurred to me that the name of the person relating the quote is not as important as the truth that lies within the quote.

Again, I encourage you to join SCWBI if you are serious about becoming a published children’s author or illustrator. And do whatever it takes to attend a conference, even if it’s just for one day! The workshops, the networking, the inspiration are worth far more than the cost of attendance.

How much time, effort, and money are you willing to put towards seeing your publishing dreams come true? I know I wouldn’t be where I am today had I not attended my first SCBWI conference back in 2011. In fact, I owe my entire career to LUNCH.

Absolute truth.

I’ll have to tell you about it sometime. 😉


DON’T ASK A DINOSAUR” is now available everywhere!

I’m looking forward to heading to Concord, NH this Saturday for a signing at Gibson’s Bookstore, one of the nation’s top indie bookstores!

  • Sat., May 12, 11am:  Gibson’s Bookstore, Concord, NHDon’t Ask a Dinosaur and School People reading/signing
  • Wed., May 15, 12pm: Concord Hospital Gift Shop, Concord, NH, Don’t Ask a Dinosaur and School People signing
  • Sat., May 19, 11:30am-3pm: Barnes & Noble, Salem, NH, National Storytime at 11am, followed by Don’t Ask a Dinosaur and School People reading/signing
  • Sat., June 2, 1-3pm: Books-A-Million, Concord, NH, Don’t Ask a Dinosaur and School People reading/signing


The Dinosaur Tour blog tour continues through the end of the month! My thanks to all these bloggers for their support:

April 6:       Michelle H. Barnes (Interview w/month-long writing prompt & GIVEAWAY!)
April 8:       Kate Narita (Book trailer & activity sheet spotlight)
April 11:     Deborah Kalb (Interview w/Matt & Deb)
April 13:     Yours Truly! (Interview w/illustrator Louie Chin)
April 16:     KidLit Exchange (Blog post re: process of illustration)
April 17:     Momma’s Bacon (DAAD review)
April 17:     Yours Truly(DAAD book birthday news AND GIVEAWAY!)
April 18:     Bonnie Ferrante (DAAD review)
April 19:     KidLit Exchange (DAAD review)

April 19:     Brenda Davis Harsham (DAAD micro review)
April 25:     Bonnie Ferrante (Interview w/Matt & Deb)
May 2:        Unleashing Readers (DAAD review)
May 30:      Bookseedstudio (DAAD review/interview) 


Purchasing personalized signed copies ONLINE? Yes, it’s true!

In case you haven’t heard, there’s a new way to purchase personalized signed copies of not only Flashlight Night, but ANY of my books or anthologies I’ve been part of!

I’ve teamed up with the good folks MainStreet BookEnds in Warner, NH to present an option for people who would love to have a signed copy of one of my books but don’t live anywhere near me. MainStreet BookEnds has ALL but one of my books available for ordering…and the best part is, you can get them personalized!

Just log onto my website and click the cover of whichever book you want, and they will get it to me to sign and send it off to you. Try doing that with those big online booksellers! (Plus, you’ll be helping to support local book-selling – and wouldn’t that make you feel good?)


Thank you so much to all the librarians, bloggers, and parents who are still discovering “Flashlight Night!” 


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

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

Poetry Friday: Flashlights and Dinosaurs and Roundups – oh, my!

Where to begin, where to begin, where to begin…it’s such a crazy, busy week, and there’s so much to talk about!

I have big news about my debut picture book, Flashlight Night (Boyds Mills Press, Sept. 19, 2017) – actually, THREE different news items – plus, news about my second book, due out this spring.

But first, let me welcome you to the Poetry Friday roundup! This is the place where you can find links to all of the poetry-related posts in the blogosphere. So leave your links in the comments below, and I’ll put them together in this post throughout the day.

“Flashlight Night” News #1:  National Book Launch!

Last night, Carol Gordon Ekster, whose new picture book is You Know What? (Clavis, 2017), and I hosted a dual book launch at Porter Square Books in Cambridge, Mass. What a success!

Clockwise from top: our books; Carol starting things off; some guy who vaguely looks like me having a grand time (Photo credit, Josh Funk)

Thank you to everyone who attended!

Loved the size of the crowd!

Oh, and did I mention there was food? Yes, I should have mentioned that…


“Flashlight Night” News #2:  One of the Best Picture Books of 2017!

Last Friday, the folks at The Children’s Book Review announced their list of what they feel are the best children’s books of the year…and Flashlight Night made the cut!

I’m so excited about this, not only because I wrote it, but because it was such a beautiful example of teamwork – between me, illustrator Fred Koehler (who came up with the concept of reality being in darkness and fantasy being illuminated by the flashlight), and my editor, Rebecca Davis, who steered the project from start to finish.

And just in case you missed that link, here it is again, so you can read the complete list – which includes books from friends and fellow writers like David Elliott, Josh, Funk, Patricia Toht, and many others.

“Flashlight Night” News #3:  On sale at Amazon!

I always like to books locally, whenever possible, because doing so helps support the businesses closest to us. But if you really want to pick up a copy and are having a  tough time with your finances, I am please to tell you that Amazon has it for almost five dollars less than the standard price: just $12.11!

Second book news: COVER REVEAL!

In the midst of all this Flashlight news, I learned something about Don’t Ask a Dinosaur (Pow! Kids Books, March 2018), the book I co-authored with author & critique partner Deb Bruss…we have a release date and a cover!

(click to enlarge)


Wait til you see what’s inside! Illustrator Louis Chin is having fun depicting 14 different dinosaur species and the utter havoc they wreak while getting ready for a birthday party.

With big, bold colors, crazy situations, and a 2-page glossary at the end detailing the unique attributes of each dinosaur, this book is completely unlike Flashlight – so I’m eager to see what people think of it! It’s already for pre-order, so CLICK HERE for details.

Local release party this weekend!

Just a reminder: if you’re in the area, please stop by MainStreet BookEnds in Warner, NH this Sunday for the local release party, starting at 2pm. More info can be found HERE.

So thank you for stopping by today! Leave your Poetry Friday links in the comments, and I’ll round them up…


“The verse is incantatory…a simple idea that’s engagingly executed” – School Library Journal

“Delicious language…ingenious metamorphoses” – Kirkus Reviews

“[Esenwine and Koehler] don’t just lobby for children to read—they show how readers play” – Publisher’s Weekly

“Readers will be inspired to…create their own journey” – Alyson Beecher, Kidlit Frenzy

“Imaginative…fantastical” – ALA Booklist

“An old fashioned, rip-roaring imaginary adventure” – The Horn Book

“Beautiful words and amazing illustrations” – Michelle Knott, Mrs. Knott’s Book Nook/Goodreads

Flashlight Night (Boyd’s Mills Press) hits bookshelves Sept. 19, 2017! Pre-orders are available now through Barnes & NobleAmazon, or Books-a-Million, or by clicking the image of the cover to the right. Of course, if you prefer, you can always wait til Sept. 19 and purchase it at your favorite local independent bookstore.

Thank you for your support!


Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!
SCVBWI_Member-badge (5 years)
To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post 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!

Shining a light on my 400th post!

Trust me, NO ONE is more surprised that I’ve posted 400 times here than Yours Truly.

400? Really?? Have I actually had something worth sharing on 400 separate occasions?

Well, for better or worse, I have indeed, published 400 posts…and today of all days, I DEFINITELY have news worth sharing!

This little fellow arrived in my mailbox the other day…a special promotional item from the publisher of Flashlight Night, Boyd’s Mills Press. I don’t know the exact number of flashlights they ordered, but it’s enough to share with a whole bunch of book purchasers (librarians, stores, etc.) all over the country!

Speaking of promoting Flashlight Night, I was also honored to see this full-page ad in Ingram and Follett First Choice journal:

And as if the ad wasn’t enough, I’m thrilled to be sharing the page with my friend and fellow writer, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, whose book, Read! Read! Read! looks absolutely beautiful.  (Side note: I’ll have a poem featured in Amy’s other new book this fall, Poems are Teachers from Heinemann, so keep watching for details on that, too!)

I also just learned last week that Flashlight Night will be receiving a STARRED REVIEW from Kirkus…I’ll be sure to share the complete review once they publish i can’t thank Boyd’s Mills Press, my editor Rebecca Davis, our illustrator Fred Koehler, and of course, YOU for helping this all to be possible…so thank you!

Flashlight Night (Boyd’s Mills Press) hits bookshelves Sept. 5, 2017, and pre-orders are available now through Barnes & Noble and Amazon, or by clicking the image of the cover to the right. Of course, if you prefer, you can always wait til Sept. 5 and purchase it at your favorite local independent bookstore.

Oh, and if you happen to be in the Boston area Thur. night, Sept. 7, I hope you’ll join us for the book launch party at Porter Square Books in Cambridge, MA! (Again, more details will be forthcoming as we get closer to the date)

Thank you again for being a part of this journey…and for being willing to sit through 400 posts! When I started this little blog nearly 5 years ago with my very first post back on Aug. 1, 2012, I had no idea what lay in store – for the blog, or my career! It’s nice to know both have been chugging along quite nicely.

And the fact that there are 385 of you following this blog each week really, truly means a lot to me. I can’t wait to find out who will be my 500th follower – but there might be a prize involved, if it’s a friend of yours! (hint, hint!)


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!



Are you ready??



Be sure to click the image to enlarge…



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





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…)


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:


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:


lens focused,
you opened to
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!


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!


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: “The Situation”

What was happening in 1984? “Ghostbusters” was the top-grossing film, Prince released his groundbreaking album, “Purple Rain”…The Soviet Union withdrew from the Olympics in the United States…and Yours Truly was dancing on the ceiling…

Two reminders before we hop in the ol’ time machine and fly back to the ’80’s…

Antarctica coverFirst, you still have a few days left to enter to win a brand new, signed children’s book! Just check out my interview with Irene Latham and my review of her new book, When the Sun Shines on Antarctica: And Other Poems from the Frozen Continent (Millbrook Press), and leave a comment as your entry! You can also share the blog post on Twitter for an additional entry – but it all wraps up on Feb, 29. I’ll announce a winner, to be drawn at random, next week, so don’t wait!

Also, Laura Shovan’s February poetry prompt series, the 2016 Found Object Poem Project, continues all month long at her blog. You can view all the photos and the poems inspired by them – and you can also log on to Michael Ratcliffe’s blog for today’s prompt and poems.

poetryfridaybutton-fulllNow then…onward and upward!

…and backward…

I’m dusting off an old poem today – and by ‘dusting off’ I mean actually dusting off. And disinfecting, too. With gloves.

You see, I was talking to a fellow writer last week who asked me what my first published piece was, and I told him it was a free verse poem I wrote back when I was either a junior or senior in high school. I remembered what it was about and its general structure, but not much else; it got me wondering how it would hold up now, if I’d written it today.

So I started digging through my archives – and somehow found it! It was published in 1984 in a local college’s literary magazine called The Henniker Review. Published by New England College in Henniker, New Hampshire, The Henniker Review began in 1979 and, to the best of my knowledge, is still being published today – and I’m grateful I made it into at least one edition!

How does it hold up? Meh…not sure. If I was writing the poem now, it would most certainly be different – it feels very amateurish to me, but I suppose that should be expected from 30 years of hindsight. Don’t get me wrong; I still like it, because it’s one of those high points in my life I can look back on and recognize as a motivating factor in my pursuit of publishing. But it’s definitely a younger, less-experienced me who wrote it:

The Situation (poem from Henniker Review)
(Click to enlarge)

– © 1984, The Henniker Review (New England College), all rights reserved

Note the yellowing of the page…the mold-induced smudges…the overwhelming mustiness…

Well, you may not be able to smell the mustiness from where you are, but trust me – it’s there. Hope you enjoyed this little excursion back to the ’80’s, and I hope you’ll swing by Elizabeth Steinglass’ blog for today’s Poetry Friday roundup!


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)Cybils-Logo-2015-Web-Sm
Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

National Poetry Month: “The Bubble Collector”

This year, I’ve had the good fortune of being able to interview two extremely talented and beloved children’s poets, Douglas Florian and Charles Ghigna.  Today, on the last day of National Poetry Month, I’m pleased to present this interview with one of our country’s newest writers, Vikram Madan, whose first book, “The Bubble Collector,” has just been published.  Madan wrote, illustrated, and self-published the book, so it’s been a major project for him; I thought it might be interesting to get some perspective on how this project came to be, and the path he has taken to publication…


Vikram Madan was born and raised in India, where he developed an early love for poetry and cartooning. Arriving in the U.S. for graduate studies, Vikram found himself drawing editorial cartoons for a Seattle newspaper, The Daily, garnering multiple awards in the process from the Society of Professional Journalists, the Washington Press Association, and others. Vikram subsequently worked in the Seattle hi-tech industry for many years while continuing to cartoon and write poetry on the side. The Bubble Collector, a collection of original, self-illustrated humorous poetry is his first book. (view the trailer for the book HERE.)  Vikram currently studies traditional art technique at the Gage Academy of Art in Seattle.


Vikram, you have said that growing up in India, you had “fairly limited access” to books…so tell us, how did you come to not only appreciate reading, but writing, particularly for children?

My mother was an elementary school teacher and instilled an early love for reading in my family. At the time I was growing up, books were a rarity in that few people I knew could afford to buy them. I was a voracious reader as a kid, but most of the time I was usually reading the same book over and over again! It was hard to come by books that you actually wanted to read, particularly poetry. I still remember that the first time I read Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘The Raven’, was inside – of all places- a dog-eared copy of MAD Magazine!

I am an engineer by training and learned to write by doing it, primarily through trial and error. It was after my children were born that I discovered the delightful world of kid’s books and it felt like a natural evolution to write for younger audiences, particularly since I never really grew up myself after all.

How did children’s poets like Jack Prelutsky and Shel Silverstein influence your writing or artistic style?

When I first started reading aloud to my kids, Dr. Seuss was an early favorite. I hadn’t really thought about writing/illustrating kid’s poetry till the day I accidentally wandered into a travelling exhibit of Dr. Seuss manuscripts at a local mall and was amazed to see the struggle and rework that had gone into each of his books.

It was an epiphany to look behind the curtain and realize that genius is indeed 99% perspiration! For the first time I felt that if I ‘worked hard enough at it’, perhaps I too might be able to create some decent illustrated poetry for kids.

Jack Prelutsky’s work propelled me from thinking about ‘poetry’ to thinking about ‘humorous poetry’. Mr. Prelutsky’s work also set forth a whole new high bar (for me) for where I needed to take my rhythm, meter, and use of language.

Shel Silverstein’s work was (pardon the mixed metaphor) the final missing smack to my head. Here was humor sculpted out of the mischievous interplay of funny poems and cartoon-like drawings! I finally saw a way to pull my three interests – humor, poetry, cartooning – together.

I’m sure the connection of you and Silverstein both being cartoonists is not lost on you!  How does it feel when people make that comparison, and how do you make your own work unique?

Somewhat ironically, one of the most common bits of advice out there for fledgling poets is “Don’t say your work is ‘Just like Shel Silverstein’ unless you’re actually Shel Silverstein.”  Shel was a master of the medium (and much, much more fabulous at everything he did). I don’t think I’ve earned the right to even occupy the same paragraph as himJ. His voice remains unique – I can’t replicate it even if I try (so I don’t have to worry about differentiating myself).

Vikram - book spread

While most poetry collections these days focus on one subject, The Bubble Collector covers a variety of different topics.  Many are silly rhyming poems like “Ballrus” and “I Poked a Cyclops in the Eye,” but then you throw in more contemplative pieces like “Shark,” that elicit more thoughtfulness than humour.  How did you determine which poems to include?

My understanding is publishers prefer thematically-linked collections because this makes for an easier sales pitch to buyers – and buyers in turn know exactly what they’re getting (“Cat Poems”, “Poems about Robots”, etc.).

When I started working on ‘The Bubble Collector’, I found it hard to restrict myself to one particular topic or theme because the vision I had in my head was closer to Jack Prelutsky’s and Shel Silverstein’s collections (“Pizza the Size of the Sun”, “Everything on It”, etc), in which the endless variation is what, IMHO, makes them such fun to read.

Poetry is always open to interpretation and poems are what you personally make them out to be. What’s contemplative for one person may well be humorous for another.  (For example, the title poem in my collection is a light-hearted, silly poem on the surface, but reads very differently if you treat the ‘bubbles’ as an allegory for ‘happiness’ or ‘dreams’).  I tried including poems that span a wide range of styles, language-levels, and ‘angles’. It’s been particularly gratifying for me that every single reader of the book seems to have a different favorite poem, so there truly is something for everyone in there.

46961_288704911263564_2102366374_nVikram, you and I have both been part of the Kidlitosphere phenomenon that is Poetry Friday, where poets and bloggers share their material, interviews, and thoughts with the world.  How has Poetry Friday helped you, and what have you learned from the relationships you’ve developed?

I was excited to discover the Poetry Friday (PF) community last year and amazed at how quickly they welcomed me into their fold. Prior to this, I had a hard time calling myself a ‘poet’ (because I didn’t know who all these people were who called themselves ‘poet’ were). Now I proudly call myself one (Thanks, PF!)   The ongoing feedback from the PF community really helped me keep my momentum going, especially when it came to the slog it takes to finish the book. I’m looking forward to getting to know more and more of the PF folks better.

Why did you decide to self-publish? Had you tried submitting to agents or publishing houses, or was that never a consideration?

Based on my past experiences (i.e. several years spent contributing to slush piles everywhere), I knew that pitching ‘The Bubble Collector’ – a non-thematic, self-illustrated, eclectic and large poetry collection targeting a wide range of ages from a previously unpublished author/illustrator – was going to be a tough sell to any editor or agent. I made a few agent queries early in the life of the project and wasn’t surprised by the response.

I had also been tracking the growth of the self-publishing industry over the last few years, and had been intrigued with the possibility that it would allow me to get the book out not only sooner, but also in the way I envisioned it. At some point I just decided I would give self-publishing a shot for this particular book. If nothing else, it would be an educational journey that would inform my future choices.

I bith intho an apple
For I love the tasthe of fruith
Now I have a bith of apple
And the apple has my tooth

I chose the print-on-demand (POD) model, where the books themselves aren’t actually printed till someone places an order. This saves authors from having to make large upfront investments.

I went with CreateSpace.com as they offered: good templates; a free ISBN; automatic listing on Amazon sites; predictable author royalties; ‘expanded book distribution’ (so books can be ordered through any bookseller anywhere); and a thriving user community forum (essential for getting help).

At no point in the process was I irreversibly bound to utilizing their services, which gave me the option of changing my mind if I needed to.

I decided on black & white illustrations for the book to keep the overall print costs low. CreateSpace requires books be submitted as print-ready PDFs. I used Microsoft Word for laying out my book and created all the images digitally. After ~8 months of writing, drawing, editing, adjusting, tweaking and reaching my goal of 100 acceptable poems. I submitted my files and was excited to shortly thereafter hold a physical copy of the book in my hands. Up until then the entire effort had been a leap of faith but I’m happy to say I was very satisfied with the end result.

After another 2 months of correcting proofs I finally went ‘live’ earlier this year. Since then I’ve been spending a lot of time on publicity and marketing. They say the real work starts after the book is written – it’s certainly beginning to feel that way.

What surprised you most, along the way?

One surprise was how few obstacles I actually ran into in the process of putting the book together – the tools, technologies, and processes are maturing quite well. The other (bigger) surprise was how much I had underestimated the challenge of marketing and publicizing the book. I should have given the post-book phase more thought much earlier in the project.

So with 100 poems and 150 illustrations in this book, how soon do you think it will be before you’re ready to put another one together?

It’ll probably be a while – another book like this will take a minimum of a year from when I start, which won’t be till I’m done promoting this book, which will be a while.

Any plans to write in any other genres?

I have a few ideas for kid-friendly graphic novels that I hope to get to someday.

What advice would you offer other writers and poets who are trying to get published, either traditionally or via self-publishing?

This self-publishing experience has filled me with a lot of respect for the traditional publishing process. When you’re self-publishing, you’re wearing all the hats yourself, and have to ramp up on a lot of areas in order to make informed decisions – it is very much like doing a one-person startup! Traditional publishing automatically brings the expertise of dozens of specialists to the table, freeing the creator to focus on the creation itself.

What I would tell aspiring writers is that, if a project falls into an established category, and you have the patience to wait for decisions, there are definite rewards to submitting your work to the big publishers (e.g. credibility, quality, time to focus on future works). If, on the other hand, you believe strongly in your work and/or your work doesn’t fit in a defined category, you aren’t intimidated by technology and tools, and are willing to do – and learn – whatever it takes to get your work out there, then by all means look into self-publishing.

Just be aware that self-publishing today is a bit of a ‘gold rush’ – there’s only a handful of success stories – but because of the low barriers to entry, just about everybody Bubble Collectoris doing it. As a result one has to work hard to rise above the ‘noise’. In a recent interview on this blog Charles Ghigna (Father Goose) talked about the need for having a ‘platform’. I have to agree – building up an audience before you publish will make you more likely to succeed with self-publishing.

In the end, whichever path you choose, you have to hold a high bar for yourself and … just keep on writing!

Well, all the best to you, Vikram…and thanks for stopping by to chat!

If you’d like to learn more about Vikram’s book, visit Goodreads.com or Vikram’s website,  1000Poems.com!  It’s available to purchase via Amazon.com.

Natl Poetry Month badge


Can you believe today is the last day for Irene Latham’s 2013 Progressive Poem?!?  This poem started with one blogger April 1 and has beentravelling from blog to blog all month long, with a different blogger adding a new line to the poem every day.  Finally, today, we have a completed poem, thanks to April Halprin Wayland!

Here’s the list of all the participating bloggers:

Prog poem 2013 graphicApril Amy Ludwig VanDerwaterJoy AceyMatt Forrest EsenwineJone MacCullochDoraine BennettGayle KrauseJanet FagalJulie LariosCarrie Finison 10  Linda Baie 11  Margaret Simon 12  Linda Kulp 13  Catherine Johnson 14  Heidi Mordhorst 15  Mary Lee Hahn 16  Liz Steinglass 17  Renee LaTulippe 18  Penny Klostermann 19  Irene Latham 20  Buffy Silverman 21  Tabatha Yeatts 22  Laura Shovan 23  Joanna Marple 24  Katya Czaja 25  Diane Mayr 26  Robyn Hood Black 27  Ruth Hersey 28  Laura Purdie Salas 29  Denise Mortensen 30  April Halprin Wayland