“Constancy”

This post was originally published August 3, 2012. It was my first poetry post on this blog, and only my second post ever, following my introduction. But I repost it every year at this time, as my wedding anniversary is August 10 and the poem was part of my wedding vows. I wouldn’t be where I am without my wife, after all – she’s the one who allows me to be a stay-at-home dad who writes for a (modest) living! 

And by the way, Molly is hosting Poetry Friday today at Nix the Comfort Zone, so I hope you’ll stop by and say hi!

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poetryfridaybutton-fulllThis is only my second posting on this blog, and although I knew I wanted to do something for Poetry Friday, it took quite a bit of deliberation to decide which poem of mine I should spotlight.  Children’s poetry or adult poetry?  Published or unpublished?  Happy or sad?  Funny or serious???

After careful consideration, I decided I would post an unpublished poem I wrote a few years ago for the one person in the world who has done the most for me in my quest to become a published children’s author:   my wife, Jenny. Through her unwavering support (emotional, physical, AND financial), I’m able to pursue this dream along with all the other people who have been so helpful to me, like my kids, friends, and fellow writers.

This is a traditional Elizabethan sonnet (three quatrains with an a/b/a/b, c/d/c/d, e/f/e/f rhyme scheme followed by a rhyming g/g couplet) which I wrote as part of my wedding vows.  No, it doesn’t read as a contemporary poem; it was deliberately written in a sort of old-fashioned, classic sort of style. I wanted to express the thought that even though poets throughout history have written words of undying love and immutable steadfastness, my love for her surpassed all their metaphors, all their similes, all that they could ever have imagined.

Yes, I’m a romantic; I make no apologies.

I conclude my poem with a suggestion for them as to what they should compare their love to…but it’s not a rose or a star.

Looking back on it (indeed, even shortly after I’d written it), there are several things I would have changed, edited, or revised – it is a bit over-wrought, I admit – but I was under a deadline, of course, and this was what I came up with.  Unlike my other poems, “Constancy” will never be put through revisions, however; these were the words I spoke to my wife on August 10, 2008 (in a voice loud enough that the entire state of Massachusetts could hear) and so they shall remain.  These words were part of my vows and are as unalterable as my love and gratitude for her.

I wouldn’t be able to do what I do if not for Jenny.

Thanks again for saying “Yes,” Honey.

Constancy
For Jennifer

How many have, before me, tried in vain
To capture beauty, constancy, and love
Through fluent phrase, in happiness and pain,
And simile of summer, star, or dove?
Their words so eloquent, imagery lush –
In perfect imperfection testify,
For seasons change, the steadfast heavens rush
To swirl about themselves, and doves will die.
How best to show the one whom I adore
The fullness of my amorosity?
I fail to find a finer metaphor
Than that true love which you have shown to me.
The poets fail! Their thoughts do not dismiss;
‘Tis better they compare their love to this.

© 2008, Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved

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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: “The Artist”

(click to enlarge)

As I mentioned last week when I shared my cherita about Quechee Gorge, VT, I had a feeling at least a few poems were going to spring out of our trip. Sure enough, I have another one – this time, inspired by my 5-year-old daughter who finds art everywhere she goes:

That’s right, whether it’s stones in a river or the crumbs on her plate, anything can become art in her hands. And I couldn’t be more proud.

For more poetry, please visit Carol Wilcox over at Carol’s Corner for today’s complete Poetry Friday roundup, where she’s sharing some ‘puppy poetry!’

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AVAILABLE NOW!

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

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 Facebook, InstagramPinterest, and SoundCloud!

 

Poetry Friday: Happy #BookBirthday to a new anthology!

It arrives in just a few days! I Am Someone Else (Charlesbridge) is the newest children’s poetry anthology from Lee Bennett Hopkins, and I’m thrilled and honored to be a part of another one of his books. The book is all about pretending – from firefighters and video game creators to knights and mermaids – and is a perfect book to share with kids who are wondering what to do with themselves over summer vacation!

So to celebrate the book, which hits stores next Tue., July 2, I thought I’d ask Lee and illustrator Chris Hsu to join me for a brief chat about the book – and pretending! So let’s have some fun with this…

First, who did young Lee Hopkins and Chris Hsu pretend to be when they were little boys?

Lee Bennett Hopkins

LEE:  I suppose I always pretended to be someone who would be something rather than a young boy living in the projects in Newark, New Jersey, trapped within the confines of a poor dysfunctional family. The pretending always seemed to be toward the arts. I lost myself in movies, mainly musicals, found theatre at age of thirteen and soaked in as much as I could. I began reading plays, one after another.
CHRIS:  Probably Mario! The original Nintendo had just come out and it was natural to want to jump around, off of, and over things like he did in the game.

How did ‘pretending’ and playtime help influence/develop the person you are today?

LEE:  Obviously, and I had not thought about this before, music, theatre are all rich in language and poetry. It had to have had an influence on my life. I think as grown-ups, we miss out on the opportunity to step ‘outside of ourselves,’ so to speak, and pretend to be someone else – other than at Halloween.
CHRIS:  I believe it develops and stretches the imagination, which in turn translates into creativity and abstract thinking as an adult.

If you could be someone else, who would you be?

2017 Florida Artists Hall of Fame, L-R: Don Felder, Billy Dean, Lee Bennett Hopkins, Secretary of State Ken Detzner, Jim Stafford .

LEE:  I like myself. I always have. This is not to be pretentious, but I have led a wondrous life. I have always been independent, knowing what I want and how to get it. Were I to be someone else? Perhaps a playwright such as Tennessee Williams, a poet like Carl Sandburg, Walt Whitman or Langston Hughes — men who wrote about the gut of life. Among the greatest thrills was being inducted into the 2017 Florida Artists Hall of Fame – on the roster with the 1989 recipient, Tennessee Williams! Of course, I’d love to be Barbra Streisand, one of the greatest talents in the world.
CHRIS:  I’d want to be an explorer in the age of exploration, maybe landing on an island no one had ever set foot on, with the role of documenting the wildlife and land to bring back home. What an adventure that would be!

Indeed, Lee, your life has been one amazing accomplishment after another! Let’s talk about the book now…was there any particular character you wish could have been included, but wasn’t? Why?

LEE:  The characters I chose for I Am Someone Else were well thought out. In the section on story book characters, for example, rather than a giant, I thought of a giant’s wife who is ‘in a total quandary /each time (she tries) to do the laundry!” People who help others, like the firefighter who risks his/her life every day. The makers – those creative beings who make our lives richer, a dancing child whose “Music makes my body move!” or the poet “to show / what a poem / what a poet / can do. / To show you — YOU!”
CHRIS: At the beginning, the kids file into a classroom, so the assumption is there’s a teacher present.  Ultimately, though, I chose not to illustrate any adult and keep the focus on the kids, much like how in the old Muppet Babies cartoon it was always told through the eyes of the Muppets, and the one adult present (Nanny) was there but remained anonymous if ever seen at all.  I felt this made the kids seem more independent.

Self-Aggrandizement Warning: my spread!

Were you surprised by anything during the process of making the book – perspectives of the writers, perhaps, or an unforeseen problem, or revelation?

LEE:  A wondrous revelation came when I was beginning the idea. I was discussing it with my dear friend, Lois Lowry, at a luncheon at her summer condo in Naples, and I batted around some ideas. Lois jumped at the chance to write “Big Problems,” a poem about a giant’s wife. Being one of the most distinguished writers of our times, even winning two Newbery Awards, did not mean she might come through writing a poem for young children. What the heck. Let her try. She did. She DID! Now she is on a roll with future poems to appear in my collections.

I also try very hard to bring new voices to a collection. Janet Clare Fagal has been ‘after me’ for eons. It was time for the tryout. Her “A Mermaid’s Tale” is charming. She worked draft after draft after draft until the poem was complete. It was Karen Boss, the editor, who decided the mermaid would be a young African American boy. This happened before Julian is a Mermaid (Candlewick, 2018), a wonderful book by Jessica Love,  appeared. And why not? If a young boy wants to pretend to be a mermaid, why shouldn’t a man like me not want to pretend to be Barbra Streisand?

CHRIS:  Even though the book is a string of separate poems with different tones and no story arc, Karen (Boss, editor), Martha (Sikkema, art director), and I thought to give it some sort of visual continuity so it didn’t just feel like a chain of non-related poems. We did that by casting a group of six kids, and then putting them in a common location – the classroom – where they could then take turns “acting” out the poems.  And by using six kids to act out fifteen poems, you get to see each kid starring in two or three scenarios each; and I felt that showing each kid exploring multiple roles was important to the concept of using one’s imagination.

Chris Hsu

The classroom setting also provided a continuous time frame that this all takes place, which is within the a single school day.  The unexpected roadblock of creating a mini story, however, was that once the last poem ended the whole book just ended very abruptly with no sense of a “the end.”  So to solve that, we added a final page that mirrored the first page of the book that gave a feeling of coming full circle.

Wow, it never occurred to me that the same kids were trying out multiple roles – what a great idea! So what do you two hope readers (grown-ups as well as kids) will take away from this book?

LEE: We are living in unexpectedly, confusing, almost insane times. We have to – need to – pretend. We can do this via poetry. We can wish to be someone else – for awhile – and make believe, masquerade. We need to get away from reality now and then, yet we must all realize, in the long run, there is nothing better than being yourself. Maybe, perhaps, pretend can lead to reality. Anything is possible with perseverance, stamina, dreams.
CHRIS:  My goal is to make books that both kids and adults can take something from. For kids who experience the book, I hope they leave with the idea that as long as they can imagine it they can act it out – even using props they likely have sitting around already and even if it’s a role not stereotypically suited for them. And it’s not limited to just one role; they can act out as many roles or characters and emotions they can think of.

For adults or parents who read the book, I hope they take away the reminder that kids’ minds are constantly in play, and that play develops into growth. As adults, we can always do our part to encourage that exploration of their imagination – whether it be engaging with them while they’re in “character,” making suggestions, or even helping them collect costumes and props.

I’m so thrilled to be a part of this book with you…I’m gad we were able to chat! By the way, what projects do you have coming up soon?

LEE:  I Remember: Poems of Pride and Prejudice (Lee & Low), will be released September 10th, a book that has been in production for four years. Fifteen of America’s top poets of varied ethnicity reveal heartfelt memories of childhood. Each poet defines what poetry means to them; each artist comments on their craft. An added bonus is an album of photographs of poets and illustrators as child and adult. Sixteen full-color paintings were created to match ethnicity of the poets, including cover art by Sean Qualls.

A favorite book of mine, Manger (Eerdmans), will be released in August in a high-quality paperbound edition, illustrated by Helen Cann. Starred in Kirkus as a book “worth savoring during the Christmas season.”
CHRIS:  The new season of ‘Archer’ just premiered a few weeks ago!  I’m a background artist on the show so check it out, it’s a funny season this year inspired by ’70s and ’80s space sci-fi movies.  Other than that, I’m always on the lookout for my next book gig, and I hope it’s a good one!

Chris, you’re an artist for ‘Archer’?? Very cool! I’ll definitely have to pay more attention to the scenery! Thank you both again for your time, and congratulations on this wonderful book we’re part of.

LEE:  Thank you, Matt, for your most interesting questions!
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TWO NEW BOOKS!

Coming soon, July 2, 2019: …………………Just released June 23, 2019:

For all of today’s Poetry Friday links and fun, please visit my friend Buffy Silverman’s blog, where you can find the complete roundup!

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

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 Facebook, InstagramPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Poetry Friday: For Father’s Day, the Poetry of Forrest Esenwine

Last month, for Mother’s Day, I shared one of my mother’s poems I discovered at their house, while cleaning out 50+ years worth of clothes, memories, paper, and assorted sundries from the attic and closets.

Today, it’s Dad’s turn in the spotlight!

The Lady-Killer himself, circa 1958, give or take a year or two. Now you finally know from where I get my devastating looks.

When I posted Mom’s poem, I mentioned that I was surprised to find it because I’d never known how much she loved poetry. With Dad, however, I wasn’t quite as surprised because I’d always known him to be very creative:  a graduate of Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, he was very skilled at graphics, woodworking, and problem-solving. He could make an entertainment center for our living room one minute and then turn around and craft earrings for Mom.

He and I even built the barn!

Dad was always writing songs, too, and sharing them with Mom and me…so discovering his poetry, while surprising, was not completely unexpected. So, like I did for Mom last month, I’m sharing one of his poems today. I told him he’d finally be a published poet – and he chuckled and said, “Well, if you think anyone would want to read them!”

I definitely do think so, Dad. In fact, I’m going to share two!

(click to enlarge)

Pretty impressive, I think, for someone who never studied the craft formally. A very classical style, of course, but very thoughtful, with solid meter and rhyme. As soon as I read it, I knew I was going to have to post it here.

The other poem of his that I wanted to share is much more unusual in its structure and rhyme scheme, but no less insightful:

(untitled)

To Live,
…..Thy life fulfilled –
…..Thy kindness spilled…on others,
…..Are part of life, and still –
To Learn,
…..And sow the seeds I find
…..Of knowledge, in my mind –
…..But not to hold as divine, but
To Teach,
…..That they may know
…..That I might share – and so,
…..The understanding grows – but then,
To Love,
…..All – and still just one…
…..With depth and meaning – and done,
…..Myself complete…I’ve known it’s worth
To Live.
.

– © Forrest H. Esenwine

Dad met Mom while he was in the Army. He saw her across the room and told one of his buddies, “I’m going to marry that girl one day.” Fortunately for me, the plan worked.

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Again, I’ve got to hand it to Dad (and Mom) for all the poetic genetics they’ve passed on to me. I’d never known they had the interest nor the ability to craft poetry like this, so my love of the genre and whatever skill I may possess did not come about through learning at home. There were a couple of poetry anthologies in their small library that I used to read all the time, but I don’t recall there ever being any push to get me to “like” poetry. In fact, I only had one poetry collection as a child, Dorothy Aldis’ The Secret Place and Other Poems (Scholastic, 1962), which I can look back on now as the single most important book in my literary development…so I can’t thank my parents enough for lighting that spark!

There’s plenty more poetry to be found, though, so be sure to head over to Laura Shovan’s blog, where she is hosting today’s Poetry Friday roundup with some choice selections from her poetry students!

 

From two weeks ago: Dad, in front of the house that we called home since 1975.

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COMING SOON!

July 2, 2019: ………………………………………June 23, 2019:

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

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 Facebook, InstagramPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Poetry Friday: “Instructions for Instructions”

I once again have my friend and fellow blogger/poet Michelle H. Barnes to thank for a Poetry Friday post. It was her blog’s “Ditty of the Month Challenge” that spurred me to write the following little piece of light verse.

Earlier this month, she interviewed another mutual friend, Liz Steinglass, about her upcoming debut children’s poetry collection, Soccerverse: Poems about Soccer (Wordsong, 2019), which arrives in stores next week. Following the lead of her poem, “Instructions for the Field,” Liz thought it might be fun to invite readers to write poems that speak to an inanimate object about how to do its job.

And so, ever the one to find the angle or subject no one else has, I decided to write instructions…for instructions!

Instructions for Instructions

Don’t give me cords in tangled knots.
Don’t show me tabs where there are slots.
Don’t leave out pieces I will need.
Don’t make your text too hard to read.
Your diagrams are convoluted.
“Some assembly,” quite disputed.
Don’t pretend there’s nothing to it
and please – don’t say a child can do it.

– © 2019 Matt F. Esenwine, all rights reserved

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I dare say, I doubt there is anyone who can’t relate! Hope you like it – and if you’d care to read all of the poems submitted to Michelle’s blog, you can check out her Padlet HERE. Still looking for more poetry? Then head over to A Year of Reading, where Mary Lee Hahn is hosting today’s complete Poetry Friday roundup with a cool new book about writing prompts!

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

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 Facebook, InstagramPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Poetry Friday: “My Book Report”

This was originally posted six years ago, on May 24, 2013 (where does the time go??)…but since the school year is winding down and graduations are ubiquitous these days, I thought a little school-themed poetry might be nice. Plus…I’ve been a little busy lately!

Hope you like it…

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I thought I’d go waaaaay back in time for today’s post – back to the fall of 2000!

This is one of the first few children’s poems I ever wrote (I started writing for children in ’99, I believe), but when I read it today, it doesn’t feel that old, if that makes sense.  Sometimes when you’re developing a skill – whether it’s writing, singing, painting, whatever – you can tell the older, unskilled work from the newer, ID-10052692 (books)more polished stuff.  Personally, I can tell it’s not new…but I’m not embarrassed by it, either (and yes, there are plenty of poems that will never see the light of day for that very reason).

“Book Report”

My teacher said I have to write
a book report for class –
at least one hundred-fifty words,
or else I will not pass.

So here I sit with pen in hand
and nothing in my mind;
if I don’t get this handed in
I’ll be in quite a bind.

There must be some creative way
I can begin the text:
I know my name, I know the date,
I don’t know what comes next.

Come on, now, brain, you’ve got to think
and help me get this done!
It’s due tomorrow morning, and
I’ve not even begun!

But wait – that’s it – I’ve got it now!
I know just what I need!
The first thing that I’ll have to do…
is find a book to read.

– © 2000, Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved

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poetryfridaybutton-fulllLooking for more poetry? You’re in luck! Dani is hosting today’s Poetry Friday at Doing the Work That Matters. Head on over and check out all the links!

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

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


  Coming July 2, 2019!

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 Facebook, InstagramPinterest, and SoundCloud!

“Don’t Ask a Dinosaur” turns one year old! (w/GIVEAWAY!)

It’s hard for me to believe, but my second picture book, Don’t Ask a Dinosaur (POW! Kids Books, 2018), turns one year old today!

From our national book launch at Porter Square Books in Cambridge, MA! (Cake courtesy of my step-daughter, Jess Corsetti)

Yes, it’s been 365 days since my co-author Deborah Bruss and I unleashed these wild and silly creatures on the world, and we’re so happy, we’re celebrating by offering YOU a gift! (More on that later.)

Deb, illustrator Louie Chin, and I all thought that it might be fun to share with you some of the questions we receive when doing school visits and book signings. We shared our most common questions with each other…then answered them all! So here we go:

What’s your favorite Dinosaur?
LOUIE:  My favorite dinosaur is the T-Rex! I even spent some time at KidLitTV in New York City and KidLit TVshared my process for drawing a T-Rex just like the one in the book – so if you’ve got kids who want to learn, I hope they’ll check out the ReadySetDraw! video.
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DEB:  Deinocheirus used to be my favorite (anyone with a talent like balancing a spoon on your nose has to be awesome!) but I have a new favorite now:  Zuul! Never heard of him? It’s a newly-discovered species! With a cool name, a shovel for a mouth, and a wrecking-ball tail, I can’t resist! (Besides, it’s easy to pronounce)

MATT:  I have two favorites; one is in the book, the other isn’t. I love Therezinosaurus because he’s so unusual – with the longest claws of any dinosaur (up to 3 feet!), a giant pelvis designed for prolonged sitting (you can’t make this up), a bird-like beak, his skeleton has been described as being “assembled by a drunken sailor who got quite confused.” My other favorite is Quetzalcoatlus, one of the largest flying creatures of all time. Approximately the same size as a small Cessna aircraft and named after the Aztec serpent god, Quetzalcoatlus is just too cool for words!

(click to enlarge)
How long does it take to write/illustrate a picture book or poem?
DEB:  I’ve never had a poem published, so that I don’t know. If I could write a poem worthy of being published, it would probably take me 50 years. For a picture book, anywhere from 6 months to many years. The original idea for Don’t Ask A Dinosaur sprouted in 1997, except the animals were current day creatures such as porcupine, moose and elephant.

MATT:  I always respond by saying, “as long as it takes” – which is honestly NOT a cop-out answer! Dinosaur went through 20 revisions before we started sending the manuscript out to potential publishers, yet a board book I have coming out next year was written in one evening, revised a few times, and was accepted. You just can’t ever tell!

LOUIE:  It takes a long time to illustrate a picture book. From the first sketches to the finished artwork, it can take almost half a year!

How did you decide which dinosaurs to include?
Some of Louie’s early sketches!

DEB:  When I exchanged contemporary animals for dinosaurs, I picked ones that were fairly common and had strange attributes. Matt, the dinosaur buff, dug around for the weirdest ones, some of which were recent discoveries.

MATT:  We wanted a good mix of dinos – some well-known favorites, some brand-new species – but they all needed exceptional, distinguishing characteristics. There were several dinosaurs and early reptiles we initially included that didn’t make the final cut, like Anchicertops, Spinosaurus, Microraptor, Archelon, and a few others.

Was it hard working together? Were there any problems?
LOUIE:  Working together was easy!
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DEB:  I also found it easy to work with someone – that someone being Matt – because feedback was fairly quick and to the point. The only problem was when Matt’s enthusiasm for the latest and coolest dinosaur bubbled over late at night and he had to wait until morning for my opinion. At least, I imagine that’s what happened.

MATT:  Actually, I think the only “problem” (if you can call it that) was that by the 17th or 18 revision, we both started over-thinking things and began adding in lines or rhymes that we’d previously taken out – ha! Once a writer gets to that point, you know it’s time to give it a rest.

How involved were you with the illustrations?
DEB:  I think our situation was fairly unusual. The editor sought our opinion on illustrative styles.
MATT:  We did have a bit of a say as to how things were going, but Louie pretty much did his own thing, and we were very happy with it!
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LOUIE:  There wasn’t a lot of communication directly. Most of it was relayed through the editor.
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No, Lioplurodon is not really a dinosaur, by definition – but he was just too fun to leave out! (click to enlarge)
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Why are there are no flying dinosaurs in the book?
DEB:  Good question! Matt, what do you have to say?

MATT: Technically, the flying reptiles known as pterosaurs (including my buddy, Quetzalcoatlus) were not true dinosaurs. Neither was Lioplurodon, either – but somehow he managed to stay. I’m guessing it’s because he was making cake, and everyone loves cake.

What’s the most memorable question you’ve been asked?
LOUIE:  I can’t recall a question that stood out, but it’s a lot of fun hearing all the dinosaur facts and stories from the children.
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DEB:  After reading to a bunch of four-year-olds, I asked, “Does anyone have a question for me?”
Child #1: “I have a crystal.”  
Child #2: “I do, too!”  
Child #3: “Me, too.”

MATT:  When I’m speaking at schools, I usually mention that being a kid is way more fun than being a grown-up because people ask kids questions like, “what’s your favorite dinosaur?” but no one ever asks ME that – it’s like they don’t even care! A student will invariably shout out, “Well, what’s YOUR favorite dinosaur??” To which I respond my thanking him/her and announcing Quetzalcoatlus. (and you know what? There’s always at least one student who goes, “YESSS!!”)

Now that the book is out, do you have any questions about it? 
DEB:  I want to know, how do all those dinosaurs fit inside a house?
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MATT:  I’m wondering if those dinosaurs that were outside, like Ankylosaurus and Argentinosaurus, ever got any cake.
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LOUIE: I’d like to know what other wild things other dinosaurs not in the book would do, if they were invited to a birthday!
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READY TO WIN A FREE COPY??

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Just leave a comment below, and you’ll be entered to win! I’ll announce the winner on Poetry Friday, April 26, so you’ve got a week and a half to tell your friends and ask them to enter, too. Good luck…and thank you for your support!

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The 2019 Kidlitosphere Progressive Poem continues! Each day during April (National Poetry Month), a different writer/ blogger adds a new line to the poem until it concludes April 30. You can follow along at the sites listed below.

2019 Progressive Poem schedule:

April

1 Matt @Radio, Rhythm and Rhyme
2 Kat @Kathryn Apel
3 Kimberly @KimberlyHutmacherWrites
4 Jone @DeoWriter
5 Linda @TeacherDance
6 Tara @Going to Walden
7 Ruth @thereisnosuchthingasagodforsakentown
8 Mary Lee @A Year of Reading
9 Rebecca @Rebecca Herzog
10 Janet F. @Live Your Poem
11 Dani @Doing the Work that Matters
12 Margaret @Reflections on the Teche
13 Doraine @Dori Reads
14 Christie @Wondering and Wandering
15 Robyn @Life on the Deckle Edge
16 Carol @Beyond LiteracyLink
17 Amy @The Poem Farm
18 Linda @A Word Edgewise
19 Heidi @my juicy little universe
20 Buffy @Buffy’s Blog
21 Michelle @Michelle Kogan
22 Catherine @Reading to the Core
23 Penny @a penny and her jots
24 Tabatha @The Opposite of Indifference
25 Jan @Bookseestudio
26 Linda @Write Time
27 Sheila @Sheila Renfro
28 Liz @Elizabeth Steinglass
29 Irene @Live Your Poem
30 Donna @Mainely Write

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


  Coming July 2, 2019!

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 Facebook, InstagramPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Poetry Friday: “In the Middle of the Night” blog tour arrives here!

author Laura Purdie Salas

I’ve been waiting for this day to arrive – so we could celebrate the release of my friend Laura Purdie Salas’ new book, In the Middle of the Night: Poems from a Wide-Awake House (Wordsong, 2019)! It’s a book that has taken her several years to finally realize, so I’m very happy for her.

This collection of 26 poems imagines what the inanimate objects inside a home are doing after the lights go out…and Laura’s imagination went wild, with stuffed animals putting on a talent show, pencils racing down the stairs, and even a leftover bowl of spaghetti lacing itself into someone’s sneakers! And when you combine these crazy scenarios with illustrator Angela Matteson’s playful visuals, you get a book of poetry that even kids who don’t think they like poetry will enjoy!

Alas, I wish I could have had Laura join me for an interview to chat about the book and her process, but unfortunately she’s been so busy this spring (she has THREE books coming out!), she simply didn’t have the time. It’s ok, I understand – we’re all busy. Fortunately, the inanimate objects in her own home came to the rescue and were willing to fill in for her!

So first of all, I’d like to thank all of Laura’s inanimate objects for joining me. Since she’s been out straight doing the blog tour, promoting her books, and trying to squeeze in more writing, I’m grateful that they all stepped up to volunteer to answer my questions.

1) Let me start with you, PEN…how did Laura come up with this idea, and what was your first reaction?

I’m pretty sure the overall idea for the book was a mash-up between a poem she wrote for Bookspeak (Clarion, 2011), “Lights Out at the Bookstore,” plus a poem someone wrote on her blog about chalk and what it did at night. Those made her think about all the objects in our homes and what they do at night.

But, I was definitely instrumental (hehe) in brainstorming for specific poems. I’d be hanging out in her purse while we were out in the world somewhere, and I’d hear a gasp. Then she’d grab me, open up a tiny notebook, and I’d spill her purple guts on the page. She always scribbled quickly, trying to catch the ideas before they disappeared, I guess. I was exhausted! What happened to the ideas after that was between her and her laptop. But that initial rush of imagination and possibility for each poem? I was proud to be part of that.

2) So DESK, you must have played an important role in all this. How long did it take her to complete the book, and was there anything surprising or unusual in the way she put this collection together?

Kitchen Table, stealing the spotlight from poor, abandoned Desk.

Sniffle, sniffle. I don’t want to say anything bad about Laura, because I love her…I really do. But basically, I’m just for show. She has a whole life separate for me, and I rarely get to see her work. Sure, she might leave a folder, closed of course, on me, but she doesn’t really share her writing life with me.

Kitchen Stool told me she spends most of her time in the kitchen, looking out the window and then at the keyboard! And all the while I was waiting for her. But what can I do? As Bonnie Raitt sings, “I can’t make you love me if you don’t.” I just…I just wish the best for Laura and her book, In the Middle of the Night.

I want her to be happy…Sniffle.

3) There, there, DESK. Have a tissue. Ok, now blow…good. 

Now then, KITCHEN STOOL, it sounds like you played a pretty  important role in all of this. How often was Laura using you to actually write the book, and how much time did she spend napping? You can be honest…

I was, of course, the foundation for this book. It wouldn’t exist without me. For months, Laura planted herself on me and stared out the windows into the backyard. I wouldn’t say napping, exactly, but perhaps a little daydreaming occurred. Then I would hear the gentle patter of her fingers on the keyboard.

Kitchen Stool: co-author and paragon of humility.

We spent so many hours and months together as she wrote the draft that Wordsong eventually acquired. (Not to mention the two intense revisions that followed!) Frankly, I should probably be listed as the co-author.

4) My next question is for SLIPPERS. Where did you take Laura, as she contemplated subjects for her poems? From your vantage point, did she forget to include any objects – or were there any items she wished she should include in the book, but didn’t?

I was Laura’s constant companion since we lived in a house with tile floors. Bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchen, family room, basement—you name it, we traveled there for research! Despite all that, when it came time to write about shoes, who did she feature? Dirty sneakers! And when that poem wasn’t strong enough to keep, she wrote a duet for Flip Flops and Snow Boots instead—she hardly ever wears either one of those! How’s that for a thank you very much?!

Clearly, she should have included me, Slippers. I was also outraged when my best friend, Missing Sock, got cut from the collection. Frankly, Laura didn’t give enough thought to clothing. I mean, Empty Pocket got its own poem, and that ridiculous Baseball Cap. And Necktie! Who cares about neckties? Oh, man. I can’t even think about this anymore. My blood pressure’s going up, up, UP, and slippers are supposed to be cozy and calm, ya know?

(reprinted with permission; click to enlarge)

5) Hmmm…indeed. Well, here, enjoy a little warm chamomile. WRISTWATCH, did she pay much attention to you, or did she pretty much work at her own pace?

Wow. Calm down, Slippers. What’s your problem? Laura gave me plenty of attention. She writes for 25 minutes, then takes a 5 minute break, so she’s always got her eye on me. She also writes fast, so a lot of times, we would have a race. Laura would say, “I bet I can get a rough draft of this poem done before your little hand reaches the 5.” I’d answer, “You’re on!” Boom! She’d start clacking away. We had a blast!

6) That does sound like fun! And how much use did Laura get out of you, CARPET? A lot of pacing, perhaps?

No pacing, but I did help with research. While she was looking for topics and thinking about what they’d do at night, Laura actually did some crawling around on me. She’d peer under the bed and peek behind the dresser, all from down low. She said she wanted to see the rooms like a kid would see them. I thought it was a little unusual, but it was delightful to have some company! I’m hoping she comes back to visit soon.

(reprinted with permission; click to enlarge)

7) My final question is for you, EYEGLASSES. What did you experience during this project, and what do you see for new projects in Laura’s future?

Illustrator Angela Matteson, who also illustrated Wordsong’s ‘Grumbles from the Town: Mother-Goose Voices with a Twist” by Jane Yolen and Rebecca Kai Dotlich

Let me tell you, sonny, I have never pointed in so many directions. Every nook and cranny in the house…Laura poked me that direction. Some things I will never unsee, like the enormous dust bunnies under the dresser. Enough to give an old man nightmares! Other times, Laura and I just gazed out to the backyard. And then eons were spent staring at her screen.

When Laura got the news that Rebecca Davis at Wordsong was acquiring the manuscript, I remember she jumped up and down and practically bounced me right off her face. And when she saw Angela Matteson’s final art…well, let’s just say I’m glad I’m waterproof.

Right now, Laura and I are seeing lots of young whippersnappers as we visit bookstores and schools and share her three new books: In the Middle of the Night: Poems from a Wide-Awake House; Snowman-Cold=Puddle: Spring Equations (Charlesbridge, 2019); and Lion of the Sky: Haiku for All Seasons (Millbrooks Press, 2019). It’s a truly heartwarming sight.

WHOA, it looks like Laura just got here – thanks for making it to the ol’ Triple-R, my friend!

Thanks, Matt, for sharing my book on your blog! I’m honored. And thank you for understanding that I don’t have much time. I’m so glad some of my writing friends were able to answer your questions!

Congratulations again to Laura, and best wishes with all the new books!

If you’d like to win a copy of In the Middle of the Night, just leave a comment below to enter the drawing! One winner will be chosen at random Thurs. night, March 28 and announced the following day, on Poetry Friday. (And if you’d like to read a poem that DIDN’T make it into the book, check out Laura’s blog HERE)

ONE MORE THING:  Madness! Poetry continues even though I can’t…yes, I got knocked out of the second round with a nail-biter of a competition between author Lori Grusman. It was so tight, that at one point I was leading 50.1% to 49.9%. That’s right, one-tenth of a percent! And then she’d take the lead, then I’d take the lead, then she’d…well, it was like that the entire round. So congratulations to my formidable opponent!

For the third round, Lori has been given the word “automaton.” (And personally, I’m kind of glad I DIDN’T make it to the third round, because I was planning on continuing my sledding story – and I’m not sure how I would have ever fit “automaton” into it!) So log on and check out all the match-ups, then vote for your favorite!

Speaking of Poetry Friday, Heidi Mordhorst is hosting today’s festivities at My Juicy Little Universe with a spotlight on climate change and the Youth Climate Strike, so head on over for the complete roundup!

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

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


  Coming July 2, 2019!

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 Facebook, InstagramPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Madness! Poetry – Round Two voting underway!

I don’t usually post on Sunday (OK, I NEVER post on Sunday), but I wanted to let you know that Round Two voting for Madness! Poetry is now underway!

Each participant is paired with another and given a specific word; we then have 36 hours to write a children’s poem using that exact word. Once the poems have all been submitted, the public gets to vote for their favorites – and the winning writer of each poem then moves on.

In Round One, I was given the word “bracing.” For Round Two, my competitor, fellow children’s author Lori Degman, and I needed to write a poem using the word “oblivion.” Through some quirk of fate, we both wrote poems using the exact same rhythmic structure and rhyme scheme – although both are quite different as far as subject matter. All the Round Two match-ups are now officially posted as of this morning, so please check them out and vote for your favorites!

NEXT FRIDAY: Join me as we celebrate the release of my friend Laura Purdie Salas’ new book, In the Middle of the Night (Boyds Mills Press, 2019)! (You could even win a free copy!)

Whew, that’s a lot of poetry news! For even more, head over to Reading to the Core, where Catherine is hosting today’s complete Poetry Friday roundup with an “Ode to Ellen Harding Baker” for International Women’s Day.

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


  Coming July 2, 2019!

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 Facebook, InstagramPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Poetry Friday: More #PopsiclePoetry!

Before we get to today’s poetry, I need to congratulate someone! Earlier this month, I featured a review of the new picture book What if…? Then We (Boyds Mills Press, 2019) along with an unusual sort of interview with author Rebecca Kai Dotlich and illustrator Fred Koehler. I also offered a free copy to anyone who left a comment! And by a random draw of the cards, the winner is…

Catherine Flynn!

Congratulations, Catherine – your copy is on its way, and thank you for stopping by!

Now, for the poetry: a few months ago, I shared some examples of my #PopsiclePoetry prompts – two or three random words written on a Popsicle stick, which I use to create a poem, usually within about 15 minutes. These are prompts, warm-up exercises for the brain, if you will, so the lines I write are not finely-tuned pieces of poetic prowess; rather, they are simply the result of a few laps on the ol’ cerebral treadmill.

But every now and then, the words come together in such a way that the poem feels more polished, more thoughtful, more “real” than I’d thought it would be, and it connects with many of the folks who read it. This is one of those.

I had asked my wife,who gives me most of these prompts, to jot down something for me to use, and she apparently decided to use her “One Word” for this year: Be Still. (Yes, technically that’s two words, but she’s never been a fan of math) So I thought about what it meant to “be still”…and this is what I came up with:

I admit it took me much longer than the 10-15 minute limit I try to impose upon myself, because I liked the concept I had come up with and had to keep battling with the thesaurus to craft the internal consonance I wanted; all those S’s, P’s, and B’s were important to the musicality of the lines, and they had to not only feel good on the tongue, but they had to sound unforced to the ears and make sense to the brain.

Hopefully I succeeded in at least one or two of those areas! I was overwhelmed by the positive response the poem received on my Facebook and Instagram pages, so I thought I’d share it here, in case you’d missed it.

By the way, I’m once again fortunate to be participating in the annual Madness! Poetry competition! If you don’t know what it is, check out the link HERE. It all begins this Sunday night at 5pm, EST…which means my competitor is going to have the upper hand, as I’ll be heading to my indoor soccer league game and not getting home until almost 9:30pm!

For today’s complete Poetry Friday roundup, please visit my friend Linda Baie at Teacher Dance, where she is celebrating spring with a poem of anagrams!

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

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


  Coming July 2, 2019!

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 Facebook, InstagramPinterest, and SoundCloud!