Inspiration, observation, and the joy of grown-up marshmallows: a look back at a Highlights Foundation poetry workshop

Two weeks ago, I spent 5 days living, breathing, and eating children’s poetry (and writing it, too, for that matter) at the Highlights Foundation’s “The Craft and Heart of Children’s Poetry” workshop in the tiny little town of Milanville, PA. I had previously attended a similar workshop with David L. Harrison back in 2013, and had been wanting to attend another ever since.

It took me five years to return, but the wait was well worth it!

Georgia Heard, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Yours Truly, and Rebbeca Davis. (click to enlarge)

The workshop’s faculty were the highly-esteemed Rebecca Kai Dotlich and Georgia Heard, who discussed poetic devices like form, voice, and rhythm and offered critiques of our writing samples. They also used several writing prompts to encourage attendees to practice writing, thinking, and observing. (You can learn more about one of those writing prompts – and my response – HERE)

In addition to Rebecca and Georgia, we were joined by Boyds Mills Press/Wordsong editor Rebecca Davis, who was my editor for Flashlight Night. Rebecca spoke to our group about poetry publishing and even offered some critiques. Also on hand was poet/author Carole Boston Weatherford, who offered insight into writing poetry in different voices, and Lee Bennett Hopkins, who chatted via Skype about his poetry anthologies and the state of children’s poetry in today’s market.

A few other highlights:

(har, har – get it? Highlights?? Ok, I’ll stop.) 

My residence for 5 days. Couldn’t ask for anything coszier!

Everything is included in your tuition: the workshop, room, meals, snacks…everything. You might stay in one of the cabins, like I did, or they may put you up in the Lodge nearby. All of the workshops and meals are held inside The Barn, a large facility recently built when the old farmhouse next door, the former residence of Highlights for Children magazine’s creators Garry and Caroline Myers, became too small to handle all of the folks attending the plethora of workshops.

Heck, there were almost 20 of us there, and they have workshops running throughout the year!

 

Just a handful of some of the cabins. (photo courtesy of Jone MacCulloch)
Want to attend a session? Head to The Barn. Joining your friends for a meal? Head to The Barn. Need a computer or printer? Head to The Barn. Wake up at 2am and decide you’re in the mood for some ice cream, Doritos, and a cold beer? Yep…head to The Barn! They’ve got you covered.

The Word Garden: You may have visited a rock garden before, but you’ve never been to this kind of rock garden…where stones are waiting in piles for you to dream up poetry with them!

 

Thoughtful…creative…perhaps a tad unbalanced. These are a few of the “poems” we discovered when we arrived – but with hundreds of rocks available, we wasted no time creating our own. (I’ll share mine in an upcoming Poetry Friday post) And if you’d like to learn more about how you can support The Word Garden, click HERE.

Photo courtesy of Georgia Heard. (Click to enlarge)

The Haiku Poet-tree: One of our exercises was to write a haiku on a small slip of paper. We then proceeded outside the Barn to read them and then hang each on the nearby tree, where we could peruse them throughout the week. (Or until the rain decided we had read enough)

S’Mores Night: Ah yes, it just wouldn’t be an October Foundation workshop without a campfire and s’mores. We gathered around a small outdoor fireplace adjacent to the Barn and roasted marshmallows – and I shared my “secret” for grown-up marshmallows: after you place yours on the roasting stick, dip it in a high-alcohol liqueur like Grand Marnier or a spiced rum for 10-15 seconds, then hold it over the flames. It will immediately flare up as the alcohol burns off, and you’re left with the essence of the liqueur on your marshmallow. You’re welcome!

You can’t tell the family members from the employees: I get the impression that everyone who works for Highlights approaches their job as if they are part of a large family – which, in actually, they are…kind of. Many of the grandkids and great-grandkids of the original founders continue their family’s legacy by working there, but even the non-familial employees behave as though they have as much at stake in their job as the owners. Friendly, professional, helpful; honestly, there are giant corporate function facilities that could learn a lot about customer service by watching the Highlights cook and waitstaff serve a meal.

A Visit to ‘Highlights’: This was definitely a highlight of the workshop (har, har – there I go again, “highlight!” I crack myself up.) One afternoon, we drove 20 minutes south of The Barn to Honesdale, PA, to visit with the folks who publish ‘Highlights for Children’ and its related publications, as well as book imprints Boyds Mills Press, Wordsong, and Calkins Creek.

How surreal is it to see one’s book on a bookcase that includes titles by Jane Yolen, Nikki Grimes, David Harrison, and J. Patrick Lewis, among others? Pretty darned, I’ll tell you that.

I had not been to the office since my previous workshop in 2013, so I had never before met in-person with people like Allison Kane, who has purchased poems of mine for the magazine, or Cherie Matthews, assistant editor for Boyds Mills Press, with whom I’ve corresponded for nearly 3 years via email.

I was deeply honored when one of my fellow attendees, Kerry Cramer, asked if he could get a photo of the two of us. I was so happy he liked my book so much, I didn’t know what else to say but, “sure!” Thanks for your support, Kerry!

One of the coolest things you’ll spy in the building is a genuine dinosaur skull that once belonged to T-Rex’s bigger cousin, Giganotosaurus. For some reason, I neglected to snap a picture of this incredible artifact…but trust me, it’s there. (And really, if you visit the office, it would be very difficult for you to miss it)

We were afforded the opportunity to meet with many of the folks who put the magazines together, and learned a little bit about ‘Highlights’ humble beginnings – from its inception in 1946 to its book imprints to its newest innovations, like teething-proof covers for ‘Hello,’ their newest magazine for the very youngest readers. One thing I learned from the tour is that the editors of ‘Highlights’ magazines respond to EVERY SINGLE letter or email they receive from children. How many are we talking? This many…

(click to enlarge)

And just before we left to head back to the Barn, I had to get one last pic:

Cheryl Matthews, who has done as much for ‘Flashlight Night”‘s success as anyone, took time for a quick photo op with one of her fans.

I have to tell you, the Highlights Foundation workshops are unlike any workshops you’ve ever been to. There is the educational component, of course; but what sets these workshops apart from all others is everything that goes along with the education: time allowed for relaxing, meandering, napping, writing, contemplating, snacking.

Learn more about the Foundation, their workshops (which range from poetry to novel writing to non-fiction to illustration and everything in-between), and what they do, please visit their website. The workshops are worth every penny, and they even offer scholarships to those who qualify! And if you have any questions about my experiences there, don’t hesitate to ask in the comments or email me!

Our poetry crew, each holding a stone we chose from the Word Garden. (photo courtesy of the Highlights Foundation; click to enlarge)

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BOOK SIGNING!

I’m looking forward to spending some time with my DON’T ASK A DINOSAUR co-author, Deborah Bruss, this Sunday afternoon in Warner, NH to celebrate the Book Birthday of her new book, GOOD MORNING, SNOWPLOW! We’ll both be there signing our books, including DINOSAUR, FLASHLIGHT NIGHT, SCHOOL PEOPLE, and the new National Geographic book, THE POETRY OF US.

Hope you’ll join us, if you’re in the area! Details here!

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


  

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

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

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

Thank you to everyone for your support!

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

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

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

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

I make a living using my imagination.

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Spring, 2016:
    (click to enlarge)

    Fred takes a 2-week trip to the United Kingdom to sketch and photograph the countryside, the shipyard, the ocean, and museum artifacts in preparation. Much of what he sees – including the trail into the woods, the clipper ship, and the rocky arch where the Kraken hides – ends up in the book. I tell Fred that I should have taken the trip first, THEN written the book – what a sweet tax-write off!
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  • July-Dec. 2016: Dummies of the book continue to be put together and taken apart, revised and edited. By early Dec., we realize that my original ending,“all is still within, without,” is simply not going to work with Fred’s illustrations, so I change the line to “adventure lingers, stirs about.” (It’s called “collaboration,” folks!) By Dec. 14, we have what we believe is the final dummy version of the entire book, text and illustrations.
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  • March 2017: And now we have a cover! The colors are a little bolder than they will eventually be, but it looks great:

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

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

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

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

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

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

    was for an email blast for the online book retailer Mackin. With so many positive reviews, our publisher wanted as many potential customers as possible to see them.
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  • Oct. 7, 2017: Illustrator Fred Koehler informs me that The Polk Museum of Art in Lakeland, FL is installing an exhibit featuring his original artwork for Flashlight Night. Each piece is to be framed and mounted on the wall, along with my text, in such as way as to allow a viewer to follow the story page-by-page:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


  (coming Sept. 25, 2018!)

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

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

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

Thank you to everyone for your support!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

(What’s a zeno? Here are a few!)

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

Have a great school year!

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


  (coming Sept. 25, 2018!)

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

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

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

Thank you to everyone for your support!

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

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

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

 

Poetry Friday: “Epitaph for a Mayfly,” a new poetry cover reveal, and a BOOK WINNER!

My friend and fellow writer/blogger Michelle H. Barnes has once again been hosting her Ditty of the Month Challenge, where she encourages readers to contribute poems prompted by her various blog guests. This month, she’s featuring J. Patrick Lewis and Jane Yolen, whose brand-new book Last Laughs: Prehistoric Epitaphs (Charlesbridge) is both hilarious and often surprisingly touching.

Jane and Pat suggested that Michelle’s followers write “epitaph” poems of their own – that is, words that one might expect to see on a tombstone. Michelle just posted mine the other day on her blog, so in case you missed it, here it is:

Click here to purchase a copy of Michelle’s latest anthology, personally signed by a guy named Matt.

Epitaph for a Mayfly

Was born for flight (and reproduction),
set off for a swarm seduction.
Lost his mate; could not locate her.
Sadly, died a few hours later.

– © 2018 Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved

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Indeed, those short, one-day lifespans are a real bummer.

What’s NOT a bummer? End-of-year lists!

I was thrilled last month when I learned that Flashlight Night (Boyds Mills Press, 2017) had been selected by the New York Public Library as one of the 100 Best Books for Kids of 2017…and now it’s a children’s book NYPL Staff Pick!

I cannot believe that a book of mine is included with books from authors like Jane Yolen, Nikki Grimes, Mac Barnett, and others. My thanks to illustrator extraordinaire Fred Koehler, editor Rebecca Davis, and the entire crew at Boyds Mills Press for their hard work and support! This has always been a group effort from the very start, and I’m proud to have been a part of it. The fact that my very first picture book was published by the “Highlights” magazine family will always be special to me.

(Side Note: Remember, each of my books – including the ones I’ve contributed poems to – can be ordered and personally signed via my hometown independent bookstore! Click here to see all the books available. Can’t do that with those online retailers!)

In other poetry news…

We have yet another cover to another poetry anthology!

I’m excited about this book not only because I have a poem included, but because – unlike National Geographic’s previous poetry anthologies – was designed as an “all-ages” book. The first two, The National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry (2012) and The National Geographic Book of Nature Poetry (2015), were geared more for school-age children, while this new book contains poems that will be appreciated by grown-ups as well!

Edited by former U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate J. Patrick Lewis, this book is a veritable Who’s Who of classic and contemporary poets, featuring poems and photos of people and places of the United States of America: the bustling cities, the out-of-the-way towns, the people, the monuments, the substance of what we call Americana.

My poem, for example, is a blank verse sonnet about the Stratosphere Casino, Hotel, and Tower – one of Las Vegas’ famous (and highest) landmarks. And I can’t wait til it comes out!

I also can’t wait to announce our winner of a copy of “School People!” 

If you visited my blog last Friday, you had the opportunity to learn a little bit more about Lee Bennett Hopkins and how he creates his anthologies…and you also had multiple chances to win a copy of his newest book, School People (Wordsong)! This book includes 15 poems about the grown-ups that children meet at school, like the Teacher, the Lunch Lady, the Librarian, the Custodian…and the “Bus Driver,” written by Yours Truly.

And the winner is…

Robert Schechter!

Congratulations, Bob – and thank you for your support of what I’ve been doing these past several years. Thank you also to everyone who commented and shared last Friday’s post…I had more entries than any other contest I’ve done here!

There’s more poetry ahead, folks – for today’s complete Poetry Friday roundup, head on over to Liz Steinglass‘ little home on the web and check out all the links and fun!

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

SCHOOL PEOPLE are here…and the DINOSAURS are on their way!

DON’T ASK A DINOSAUR hits bookshelves April 17!

New dates continue to be added to the Dinosaur Tour! Don’t Ask a Dinosaur co-author Deborah Bruss and I have quite a busy schedule planned:

  • Sat., April 14, 11am:  Toadstool Bookshop, Peterborough, NH, (Children’s Author Day with illustrator Ryan O’Rourke AND Local Book Launch for Don’t Ask a Dinosaur!)
  • Sat., April 14, 2pm:  Toadstool Bookshop, Keene, NH, (Children’s Author Day with illustrator Ryan O’Rourke AND Local Book Launch for Don’t Ask a Dinosaur!)
  • Tue., April 17, 7pm:  Porter Square Books, Cambridge, MADon’t Ask a Dinosaur Dual National Launch Party!! (with Holly Thompson, One Wave at a Time reading/signing/discussion)
  • Thur., April 26, 10:30am:  Pillsbury Free Library, Warner, NH, Dinosaur Storytime with Don’t Ask a Dinosaur!
  • Sat., April 28, 10:30am: Brookline Booksmith, Brookline, MA, Don’t Ask a Dinosaur reading/signing
  • Sat., April 28, 2pm: Barnes & Noble, Framingham, MA, Don’t Ask a Dinosaur reading/signing (with Sara Levine, Fossil by Fossil: Comparing Dinosaur Bones reading/signing)
  • Sun., April 29, 2pm:  MainStreet BookEnds, Warner, NHDon’t Ask a Dinosaur reading/signing and discussion
  • Sat., May 5, 10am: Barnes & Noble, Burlington, MADon’t Ask a Dinosaur reading/signing
  • Sat., May 5, 1pm:  Barnes & Noble, Nashua, NHDon’t Ask a Dinosaur reading/signing
  • Sat., May 12, 11am:  Gibson’s Bookstore, Concord, NHDon’t Ask a Dinosaur reading/signing
  • To be scheduled: Barnes & Noble, Salem, NH
  • To be scheduled: Books-A-Million, Concord, NH
  • To be scheduled: Concord Hospital Gift Shop, Concord, NH
  • MORE DATES to be added!

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

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

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

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?)

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

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: On Langston Hughes, School People, and Riotous Punctuation: an Interview (& Giveaway!) with Lee Bennett Hopkins

School People (Wordsong), Lee Bennett Hopkins’ new children’s poetry anthology, is officially in stores!

Edited by  Flashlight Night editor Rebecca Davis, this book includes 15 poems about the grown-ups that children meet at school – including my poem, “Bus Driver.” Today, Lee Bennett Hopkins joins me for a brief interview about the book and how he goes about creating these exceptional anthologies.

First of all, Lee, I want to thank you for asking me to contribute a poem to another one of your books! I know I speak for all of the contributors when I say that is always an honor when asked to write something for a Lee Bennett Hopkins anthology. What was your first anthology, and how did it come about?

After teaching for six years in an elementary school in Fair Lawn, New Jersey, and having completed my Master’s Degree at Bank Street College of Education (when Bank Street College was on Bank Street in Greenwich Village),  I was offered a job working with Bank Street to develop new programs in Harlem where I wrote numerous articles, many dealing with African American studies. My work was with junior high school students and teachers to bring African American literature and poetry to weave into curricula.

Born in Scranton, PA, Hopkins graduated Kean University, Bank Street College of Education, and holds a Professional Diploma in Educational Supervision and Administration from Hunter College. He received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Kean University, the University of Southern Mississippi Medallion for “outstanding contributions to the field of children’s literature,” and a place in the Guinness Book of World Records for his 120+ children’s poetry anthologies. He also received the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Excellence in Poetry for Children award and the Florida Libraries’ Lifetime Achievement Award.

On May 22, 1967, Langston Hughes died in Harlem; a few blocks away from where I was working. I wanted to share more of his work. The only book he had done for children was The Dream Keeper and Other Poems (Knopf) published in 1932. 1932! Although the words were as universal as ever, the artwork was stereotypically appalling. I could not share an Aunt Jemima-looking woman in her bandana nor a tap dancing-like dude with cap and cane with students or colleagues.

I brazenly called the Knopf office and asked to speak to their current editor. Imagine this! I was young, naïve – and truly didn’t know better! After asking why a new book of Hughes poems had not been published and angry over the artwork, the editor, Virginia Fowler, stopped me mid-ranting and asked me to meet her for lunch. She remained shocked I had the nerve to call her but told me how she loved my enthusiasm.

Voila, I was offered a contract to bring a new edition of Hughes work to life. The result Don’t You Turn Back, with exquisite woodcuts by Ann Grifalconi. The book was highly touted, won numerous awards including an ALA Notable Book. The Introduction was written by Arna Bontemps, noted author, historian, and friend of Hughes. I was truly on my way; the first of many books I published with Knopf!

These days, there are poetry collections about everything from food to bugs to historical events. How difficult is it to come up with thematic concepts that will not only be commercially successful, but of a high literary value, as well?

It isn’t so much a theme but how one executes it. There are many books of poems about school. In School People, for example, I begin with the building itself; it is “School’s Story.” I asked Rebecca Kai Dotlich to begin the book with the building… what it awaits, what it holds, what it is. “I am waiting—come on in!” Come on in to “A building full of soul and heart.”

The cast of personnel is then presented beginning with your poem “Bus Driver” showing the empathy of a smiling face that brings a child to school and home again. Various school workers are presented, each detailing their various roles. The book ends with “School’s Story Reprise” by Dotlich who brings the collection to a whole where the building tells of ‘all these parts; / hours of wonders, surprises, starts.”

The “high literary value” comes via the pens of today’s poets, established voices and well as newer ones. It is the culmination of hours, days, months, sometimes even years of back-and-forth-ing, editing, rewrites galore, the supreme delight of working with disciplined poets. How lucky I am to have them in my life.

Lee’s poem from “School People,” ©2018 Wordsong, all rights reserved, reprinted with permission (Click to enlarge)

Can you provide us with some insight as to how an anthology comes together? That is, once a subject is determined and the publishing contract is signed, what happens next?

I make a list of poets I would like to invite. Knowing their work I have the gut feeling of what they will create. Many have appeared in past collections. I know, for example, that Joan Bransfield Graham writes with emotion which gives me goose bumps. I sigh after she is finished with a poem. It is remarkable the empathy she can bring to a few lines. I also want to take chances with ‘newer’ poets to help them advance their careers.

Once all the poems are in they are sent to an editor. In this case, Rebecca M. Davis at Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press. Rebecca and I have worked on countless collections. Not only is she my dearest friend, she is among the best editors in the industry. We sort of know where to go. If I go astray she’ll lead me right back on track. She is my Poetry Mistress! (Smile, Rebecca!) I can’t wait to begin a collection under her keen guidance.

Last year, you were inducted into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame along with such highly esteemed folks as guitarist Don Felder of the Eagles and country signers Billy Dean and Jim Stafford. I know you were very surprised when it was first announced…but how did it feel to actually be there, accepting the award?

The Award Ceremony was held in Gainsville, Florida. It was a mind-boggling gala to be in a room filled with such creative people. A host of people were instrumental to my induction including the tireless, determined work of Jude Mandel and Stephanie Salkin. My greatest shock and delight was to appear on a roster of people such as Ernest Hemingway, Zora Neale Hurston and my all-time idol, Tennessee Williams. I shall forever be on A Streetcar Named Desire due to this honor!

The Contents page reads like a Who’s Who of children’s poets…and somehow, I ended up in there, too! ©2018 Wordsong, all rights reserved, reprinted with permission (Click to enlarge)

Finally, since this new book, School People, is all about the grown-ups that children meet when they go to school…who was your favorite “school person” when you were in elementary school?

There were many but one stands out – my eighth-grade teacher, Mrs. Ethel Kite MacLachlan, who saw something in the mixed-up child I was and turned my life around with her compassion and understanding. Like Joan Bransfield Graham’s poem, “Teacher”, she was the one to ‘stretch my world much wider” made me feel “I, too, can fly.”

Oh, and I would be remiss if I neglected to ask what is next on your publishing schedule! I know you have a couple of other anthologies coming out next year; any more books this year?

I am looking forward to the release next month of World Make Way: New Poems Inspired by Art from the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Abrams). World Make Way is visually stunning, highlighting masterpieces by artists as Mary Cassatt and Henri Rousseau to the contemporary Kerry James Marshall. The poetry is ekphrastic verse featuring all new works by such award-winning poets as Guadalupe Garcia McCall, Marilyn Nelson, Naomi Shihab Nye, and Carole Boston Weatherford.

In the fall, a romp of a collection, A Bunch of Punctuation (Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press) bringing punctuation marks to riotous adventures. O! what some of my wondrous poet friends have come up with including odes to a dash, a hyphen and parentheses!

French artist, Serge Bloch’s whimsical artwork is simply “!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Well, thank you again, Lee, for taking the time to chat – and thank you also for inviting me to be part of School People and some of your other upcoming books. Congratulations on this newest accomplishment!

Thank you, Matt, for all you do to promote poetry.

Speaking of poetry, folks…if you head on over to Ms. Mac’s place, Check It Out, you’ll find today’s complete Poetry Friday roundup! If you’d like to order a copy of “School People” personally signed by Yours Truly, just CLICK HERE!

AND IF YOU’D LIKE TO WIN A FREE COPY OF “SCHOOL PEOPLE,” SIMPLY LEAVE A COMMENT BELOW OR SHARE THIS POST VIA FACEBOOK, TWITTER, OR PINTEREST – AND BE SURE TO TAG ME, SO I’LL SEE IT. (EACH OF THESE ACTIONS EARNS AN ENTRY, SO YOU CAN POTENTIALLY HAVE AS MANY AS FOUR ENTRIES!)

I’LL PICK ONE NAME AT RANDOM NEXT THURSDAY NIGHT AT 8PM EST AND ANNOUNCE THE WINNER IN NEXT FRIDAY’S  BLOG! 

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

SCHOOL PEOPLE are here…and the DINOSAURS are on their way!

“Don’t Ask a Dinosaur” hits bookshelves April 17!

New dates continue to be added to the Dinosaur Tour! Don’t Ask a Dinosaur co-author Deborah Bruss and I have quite a busy schedule planned, and more dates continue to be added:

  • Sat., April 14, 11am:  Toadstool Bookshop, Peterborough, NH, (Children’s Author Day with illustrator Ryan O’Rourke AND Local Book Launch for Don’t Ask a Dinosaur!)
  • Sat., April 14, 2pm:  Toadstool Bookshop, Keene, NH, (Children’s Author Day with illustrator Ryan O’Rourke AND Local Book Launch for Don’t Ask a Dinosaur!)
  • Tue., April 17, 7pm:  Porter Square Books, Cambridge, MADon’t Ask a Dinosaur National Launch Party!! 
  • Thur., April 26, 10:30am:  Pillsbury Free Library, Warner, NH, Dinosaur Storytime with Don’t Ask a Dinosaur!
  • Sat., April 28, 10:30am: Brookline Booksmith, Brookline, MA, Don’t Ask a Dinosaur reading/signing
  • Sat., April 28, 2pm: Barnes & Noble, Framingham, MA, Don’t Ask a Dinosaur reading/signing (with Sara Levine, Fossil by Fossil: Comparing Dinosaur Bones reading/signing)
  • Sun., April 29, 2pm:  MainStreet BookEnds, Warner, NHDon’t Ask a Dinosaur reading/signing and discussion
  • Sat., May 5, 10am: Barnes & Noble, Burlington, MADon’t Ask a Dinosaur reading/signing
  • Sat., May 5, 1pm:  Barnes & Noble, Nashua, NHDon’t Ask a Dinosaur reading/signing
  • Sat., May 12, 11am:  Gibson’s Bookstore, Concord, NHDon’t Ask a Dinosaur reading/signing

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

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

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

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?)

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

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!

“School People” Book Birthday!

(Click the cover to order a personally-signed copy from Yours Truly!)

Lee Bennett Hopkins’ new children’s poetry anthology, School People (Wordsong), is now officially in stores everywhere!

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

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

 

School People also includes poems by Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Charles Ghigna, J. Patrick Lewis, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, Renee LaTulippe, Irene Latham, Robyn Hood Black, and many others including Lee himself.

It’s a beautiful book, so I hope you’ll consider picking up a copy. And please be sure to check out this Friday’s blog, when I interview Lee about the book, his amazing, record-setting history of anthologies, and his induction into the Florida Artists’ Hall of Fame.

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SCHOOL PEOPLE are here…and the DINOSAURS are on their way!

“Don’t Ask a Dinosaur” hits bookshelves April 17!

New dates continue to be added to the Dinosaur Tour! Don’t Ask a Dinosaur co-author Deborah Bruss and I have quite a busy schedule planned, and more dates continue to be added:

  • Sat., April 14, 11am:  Toadstool Bookshop, Peterborough, NH, (Children’s Author Day with illustrator Ryan O’Rourke AND Local Book Launch for Don’t Ask a Dinosaur!)
  • Sat., April 14, 2pm:  Toadstool Bookshop, Keene, NH, (Children’s Author Day with illustrator Ryan O’Rourke AND Local Book Launch for Don’t Ask a Dinosaur!)
  • Tue., April 17, 7pm:  Porter Square Books, Cambridge, MADon’t Ask a Dinosaur National Launch Party!! 
  • Thur., April 26, 10:30am:  Pillsbury Free Library, Warner, NH, Dinosaur Storytime with Don’t Ask a Dinosaur!
  • Sat., April 28, 10:30am: Brookline Booksmith, Brookline, MA, Don’t Ask a Dinosaur reading/signing
  • Sat., April 28, 2pm: Barnes & Noble, Framingham, MA, Don’t Ask a Dinosaur reading/signing (with Sara Levine, Fossil by Fossil: Comparing Dinosaur Bones reading/signing)
  • Sun., April 29, 2pm:  MainStreet BookEnds, Warner, NHDon’t Ask a Dinosaur reading/signing and discussion
  • Sat., May 5, 10am: Barnes & Noble, Burlington, MADon’t Ask a Dinosaur reading/signing
  • Sat., May 5, 1pm:  Barnes & Noble, Nashua, NHDon’t Ask a Dinosaur reading/signing
  • Sat., May 12, 11am:  Gibson’s Bookstore, Concord, NHDon’t Ask a Dinosaur reading/signing

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

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

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

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?)

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

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: “Don’t Ask a Dinosaur” book trailer debut!

(Click to order a copy personally signed by both Deb and me!)

If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you know how excited I’ve been, helping to put together the trailer for Don’t Ask a Dinosaur (Pow! Kids Books) – so I’m SUPER excited about sharing it with you!

Don’t Ask a Dinosaur is the new picture book I co-wrote with author Deb Bruss, which arrives April 17. Since I am a voiceover talent as well as a children’s writer, I volunteered to produce the audio for the book trailer here at my home studio…and it was a surreal experience.

You see, I’ve written and produced thousands of radio commercials over the years, but never a trailer for my own book! Once I knew how the publisher had set up some of illustrator Louie Chin’s images to use in the press release, I wrote a script using those images as a basis, recorded my voice, then added music and mixed the whole thing down to one audio file which I sent off the Madison Morales, the publicist for Pow! Kids, who married the audio with the video – and we came up with this:

What do you think?? It’s definitely not Flashlight Night, that’s for sure – with all the bright colors and craziness these two kids are dealing with, a little quiet evening out in a dark tree house might be just what they need!

I dedicated Don’t Ask a Dinosaur to my son, Greyson, whose love of dinosaurs inspired me to write this with my friend Deb, so in keeping with the dinosaur theme of today’s post, I thought I’d share a poem I wrote for Penny Parker Klostermann’s blog exactly two years ago for Poetry Friday.

It was inspired by a picture that my son (who had just turned 6) had drawn of some dinosaurs, and this is what came of it:

(click to enlarge)

And since Poetry Friday usually means lots of poetry, you’ll find plenty more at Carol Varsalona’s blog, Beyond Literacy, where she is hosting the official roundup!

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

“Don’t Ask a Dinosaur” hits bookshelves April 17!

The book tour is already taking shape with several dates! Here’s how our schedule looks right now (more dates to be added soon!):

  • Sat., April 14, 11am:  Toadstool Bookshop, Peterborough, NH (Children’s Author Day with illustrator Ryan O’Rourke AND Local Book Launch for Don’t Ask a Dinosaur!)
  • Sat., April 14, 2pm:  Toadstool Bookshop, Keene, NH (Children’s Author Day with illustrator Ryan O’Rourke AND Local Book Launch for Don’t Ask a Dinosaur!)
  • Tue., April 17, 7pm:  Porter Square Books, Cambridge, MA, Don’t Ask a Dinosaur National Launch Party!! 
  • Thur., April 26, 10:30am:  Pillsbury Free Library, Warner, NH Dinosaur Storytime with Don’t Ask a Dinosaur!
  • Sun., April 29, 2pm:  MainStreet BookEnds, Warner, NH Don’t Ask a Dinosaur reading/signing and discussion
  • Sat., May 5, 1pm:  Barnes & Noble, Nashua, NH Don’t Ask a Dinosaur reading/signing
  • Sat., May 12, 11am:  Gibson’s Bookstore, Concord, NH Don’t Ask a Dinosaur reading/signing

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

School People (Wordsong), Lee Bennett Hopkins’ newest children’s poetry anthology, arrives Feb. 13!

Edited by  Flashlight Night editor Rebecca Davis, this book includes 15 poems about the grown-ups that children meet at school…including my poem, “Bus Driver”. I hope you’ll consider picking up a copy!

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

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

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?)

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

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: “Don’t Ask a Dinosaur” gets a publication date, and New Hampshire KidLit gets a boost!

It’s official! My next picture book, Don’t Ask a Dinosaur (Pow! Kids Books), co-authored with Deb Bruss (Book! Book! Book!, Big Box for Ben), will arrive in stores on April 17! Woo-HOO!

The newly-revised cover! Click to order! Do it! Now!

Illustrator Louie Chin has been working for months on these illustrations, tweaking them here and there til they were juuuust right – and Deb & I couldn’t be more happy with them. Things are getting busy on the calendar, too! We have book launches and readings already lined up, with lots more to come…

  • Sun., Jan. 14, 4pm:  Hopkinton (NH) Town Library, Flashlight Night reading/signing and discussion (Matt)
  • Sat., April 14, 11am:  Toadstool Bookshop, Peterborough, NH (Children’s Author Day with illustrator Ryan O’Rourke AND local book launch for Don’t Ask a Dinosaur!) (Matt & Deb)
  • Sat., April 14, 2pm:  Toadstool Bookshop, Keene, NH (Children’s Author Day with illustrator Ryan O’Rourke AND local book launch for Don’t Ask a Dinosaur!) (Matt & Deb)
  • Tue., April 17, 7pm:  Porter Square Books, Cambridge, MA, Don’t Ask a Dinosaur National Launch Party!! (Matt & Deb)
  • Thur., April 26, 10:30am:  Pillsbury Free Library, Warner, NH Dinosaur Storytime with Don’t Ask a Dinosaur(Matt & Deb)
  • Sun., April 29, 2pm:  MainStreet BookEnds, Warner, NH Don’t Ask a Dinosaur reading/signing and discussion (Matt & Deb) 

You read that right – the book doesn’t come out for 4 months, and we’ve already got FIVE Dinosaur events planned with many others in the works. No one can say I’m not motivated.

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

KidLit603 has launched!

In other news, a new website has emerged on the kidlit scene! If you’re looking for info about New Hampshire-based children’s authors and illustrators, look no further than KidLit603 – the brainchild of a group of NH writers who thought it was about time our state had a more visible way of showcasing those of us who write for children.

At the website you’ll find news, event info, and author links – and if you know of something happening in the area related to children’s literature, send an email!

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

“School People” arrives soon!

And since it is Poetry Friday, I just had to share a little bit of news about School People (Wordsong), the new Lee Bennett Hopkins anthology due out in just a few weeks. There are 15 poems about the people children meet at school…and I’m so honored to have a poem of mine included!

In fact, I’m doubly honored that my poem, “Bus Driver,” is the second poem in the book and immediately follows the opening poem, “School’s Story,” by Rebecca Kai Dotlich. Written from from the point of view of the school building, Rebecca’s poem exhorts the reader to “Come on in!” and “Enter whispers, whistles, signs, / footsteps, fossils, notebook lines.”

Other poets whose work is included in the book include Charles Ghigna, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, Renee LaTulippe, Irene Latham, Robyn Hood Black, J. Patrick Lewis, and many others. It’s a beautiful book, edited by my Flashlight Night editor Rebecca Davis, and I hope you’ll consider picking up a copy.

Care to read a glowing review from Publisher’s Weekly? Of course you do! 

Care to read another positive review from Kirkus? I knew you would!

Care to check out all of today’s Poetry Friday links? Then head over to Jan Godown Annino’s Bookseedstudio for the complete roundup, where she is celebrating poetry and the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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

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?)

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

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

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: 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…

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“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!

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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: Celebrating my 401st post with a Kirkus STAR!

This past Tuesday, I told you I had learned my debut picture book, Flashlight Night (Boyd’s Mills Press), was going to receive a starred review from Kirkus…well, today, I can share the entire review with you!

I had no idea when their review was going to be published – and as it turned out, it was published later the same day! I am so honored, humbled, and thrilled that Kirkus loves the “delectable language” of the text and the “ingenious metamorphoses” created by illustrator Fred Koehler.

You can read the entire review HERE!

As someone who primarily writes children’s poetry, I am especially excited about this because I wrote the manuscript as a poem first, and as a manuscript second. I used poetic devices like alliteration and internal rhyme, I specifically left out many of the details of the story in order to allow ones imagination to take over, and – as Kirkus points out – the subject of the story is not a child or animal.

It’s the flashlight!

I had more than a few critiques question if I realized the main character was an inanimate object – and I said yes, I knew. I did that deliberately, as a matter of fact. Of course, straying from the standard rules of picture book writing, I had no idea if what I wrote was going to ‘click’ with anyone; leave it to the brilliant Rebecca Davis, my extremely supportive editor at Boyd’s Mills Press, to fall in love with it in early 2015 and make an offer to purchase it.

Flashlight Night 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.

Boyd’s Mills Press’ exhibit today at Book Expo America. If you look closely, you can almost see the cover of my book.

Two separate book launches are also already planned! 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. If you are in New Hampshire, I invite you to the book launch party the following Sun., Sept. 10, at MainStreet BookEnds in Warner, NH starting at 2pm. More details about both of these events will be forthcoming as we get closer to the date.

The Poetry Friday roundup can be found at Buffy Silverman’s Blog, so be sure to check out all of today’s poetry links. Oh, and I’m looking forward to discovering this blog’s 500th follower – we’re at 485 right now – so please tell your friends about my little home on the web! (And there might be a PRIZE involved, hint, hint!)

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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!