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

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

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

(click to enlarge)

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

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

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

(click to enlarge)

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

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

(click to enlarge)

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

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

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

(Someone pinch me…)

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

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

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

                 

(All images courtesy of Katherine Esenwine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Picky Eater

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

– © 2015, Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved

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

Fair is Fair
(a lesson in Fair Trade)

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

– © 2015, Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Lesson in Brevity

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

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

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

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

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

Poetry Friday: Poetry Madness Returns!

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

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

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

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

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

Senescence

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

– © 2013, Matt Forrest Esenwine

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

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

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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!
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To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)
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Poetry Friday: “Sledding”

sledding-graphic
(click to enlarge)


I took this photo of my son sledding at our next-door neighbors’ backyard almost exactly 2 years ago, and as I looked at it, certain thoughts kept coming to me: a long way down, a long climb up, his being undaunted in trudging uphill over and over, to enjoy the thrill of the ride.

030This poem came out of that. He was 5 at the time, and had never been tubing before – and had never worn a helmet and goggles before, either – so for someone who had been sledding almost as long as he had been walking, he was enjoying these new experiences.

If you’re looking for more poetry, head on over to Jone MacCulloch’s place, Check It Out, for today’s complete Poetry Friday roundup!

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

Poetry Friday: “A Father’s Advice”

I was sifting through a number of my older children’s poems the other day, and I re-discovered this little thing. It’s a short poem I wrote at least 6 years ago, that I never poetryfridaybutton-fullldid anything with – possibly because I only wrote it for my kids (it’s based on a saying I used to tell them when they’d get hurt), but more likely because it’s probably not up to ‘publishable’-level quality.

Oh, well. I have so many projects I’m trying to find time to work on these days, I’m sure this poem will never be revised – so I figured I’d share it with you! Even though I wrote it before I found my children’s poetry voice, I still kind of like it…hope you do, too:

A Father’s Advice 

One day, you just might hurt yourself;
you may fall down and skin your knee
or bump your head, or need some help.
Well, please take this advice from me:

The first thing you should always do
is try your best to grin a grin;
‘cause if you find you’re still alive,
it’s not as bad
as it could’ve been.

– © 2011 Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved

Violet Nesdoly is hosting Poetry Friday today, so be sure to stop by and check out all the links!

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

Poetry Friday: “Courtship”

courtship-graphic
(click to enlarge)

That’s a little something I wrote a couple of years ago for Tabatha Yeatts‘ Winter Poetry Swap. I recently tweaked and reformatted it, so I hope you like it! For more poetry, be sure to visit Teacher Dance, where Linda Baie is hosting the first Poetry Friday of 2017!

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