Amusement rides and chainmail socks: What I learned at the state fair, Vol. VI

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Ah, yes…fair season is upon us!

Last weekend, I spent four days at the Hopkinton State Fair – the largest fair in New Hampshire –  wandering the grounds reminding people when the cattle pulls start, what stage the hypnotist was on, and where the bathrooms were.

I’m the announcer for the fair, so when you hear a voice on the PA system echoing through the trees, that’s me. It’s a very unique sort of job, and one that’s a heck of a lot of fun, but it does require a lot work; 55 hours in 4 days can wear one down, and I put in less hours than many of the other employees!

But I’m there every year, and every year I learn something new. Which is why I’ve been putting this annual post together for 7 years now…to shed some light on my lessons learned and observations made.  In the past, I’ve become educated on the problems with skimpy clothing, I’ve discovered the most despised candies in the universe, and, like you, have enjoyed more than my fair share of Australian Battered Savs.

What golden nuggets of wisdom did I discern this year? Read on, faithful reader:

  1. When you smell cotton candy at 8:30 in the morning, you know it’s going to be a great day. #Truth
  2. Some people just do not know how to park. Invariably, every year we get fair goers who don’t want to follow the parking pattern or the fair employees who are showing people where to park. These folks inevitably have to move their vehicles one they’re in the gate and as far away from their vehicle as possible. Once such fellow parked his big SUV in a spot that wasn’t a parking space, and ended up blocking the fire department entrance. I spent at least 2 hours paging him over the PA system to move it, and when he finally did, he parked it right beside an agricultural trailer…which he ended up blocking.
    .
  3. Justin and Ryan from Recycled Percussion should not quit their day jobs.
    30 seconds after it started…it was all over for these two. (click to enlarge)

    The band, which formed in a small town 30 minutes from here and is now a top-selling Las Vegas act, played at our fair for the very first time on Labor Day. They’re good guys, and had cancelled many of their shows in order to spend time in Texas helping with relief efforts, but they made the trek up here to put on this one show, and it was terrific. The night before the show, however, Justin and Ryan were given the opportunity to drive in the annual demolition derby…and were both knocked out within 30 seconds!
    .

  4. Timbersports will probably never show up in the Olympics. Everyone was excited that the Axe Women Loggers of Maine were returning for another year. Individuals in the group hold multiple National & International Lumber Jill and Timbersports titles and their shows include demonstrations of axe throwing, cross-cut sawing, standing block chopping, and log rolling…none of which will probably ever end up as an Olympic event. Their spokesperson explained that, in the Olympics, equipment is standardized so that every athlete has a fair opportunity to showcase his/her abilities. In timbersports, one doesn’t have that luxury; if one person’s log happens to have an internal knot, it could not only dull the blade – or even break it – it completely shuts down that athlete. So “luck,” like it or not, can play a huge role in a competitor’s performance, which is a no-go when it comes to the Olympics.
    .

    The throw…


    …nailed it!

    .

  5. Speaking of the Axe Women…they wear chainmail socks. You know chainmail – those tiny links of metal King Arthur’s knights wore to protect themselves under their suits of armor? Well, professional timbersports athletes wear chainmail socks to protect their feet during competitive chopping events, like the one pictured. These ax blades are made of a special metal that is so sharp, one really can shave one’s arms with it – so if it happens to slip and smash into your boot, you’ll still be able to walk away with your toes intact. You might be screaming in agony, but your toes will thank you.  

    (click to enlarge any photo)
  6. Under-the-counter cheese beats over-the-counter cheese. I didn’t know “under-the-counter” cheese was even a thing, and I’ve been going to fairs my entire life! Sold by a family-run establishment known as the Yankee Cheeseman, this particular cheese is an extra-sharp cheddar that’s even sharper than their sharpest, XXXXX sharp cheddar. Aged TEN YEARS, this cheddar is so sharp, when you bite into it, it bites you back. SO. GOOD. The reason it’s called “under-the-counter cheese” is because it’s so sharp, and the texture is often a bit uneven, that many folks who are unfamiliar with it think there’s something wrong with it – so the vendors don’t even put it out on display or offer free samples. You can only buy it if you ask for it…and at $17/pound, it’s worth every penny.
    .
  7. I love playing the national anthem from the grandstand tower.
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    It’s a tradition here the fair that we play the Star-Spangled Banner everyday at noon. It was only until this year that I realized that when I stand to pay respect, remove my hat, and put my hand over my heart…I’m also saluting fries. And that just makes me happy.
    .
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  8. False advertising can show up anywhere.
    I spent a good 3 hours inside this place and couldn’t give away my beads to anyone.
    .
    Ripoff.
    .
    By the way, I also learned that a merry-go-round may feature various types of animals in addition to horses. but a carousel can only have horses. Bet you didn’t know that, didja??
    .

So those are this year’s words of wisdom! I’m already looking forward to 2018 – and also looking forward to enjoying at least one or two fairs with the family. But I’ll make sure I park where I’m supposed to.

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By the way, thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who showed up for Flashlight Night‘s national book launch at Porter Square Books in Cambridge, MA last Thursday and the local release party at MainStreet BookEnds in Warner, NH this past Sunday!

In Cambridge with Carol Gordon Ekster, who also released her new book, “You Know What?”
In Warner, NH! Good crowds both days.

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Flashlight Night (Boyd’s Mills Press) hits bookshelves Sept. 19, 2017! 

“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” – Booklist

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

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

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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Poetry Friday: Birthday poem “Her Green World”

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This photo was taken a couple of weeks ago when my wife and I took our two kids to Quechee Gorge, Vermont – our local “Little Grand Canyon,” as they call it.

It’s a nice place to hike, explore, get wet, have a picnic, or just relax. At one end of the gorge rock ledges jut out of the earth as the Ottauquechee River smooths; folks can meander around carefully and take a dip in the water. At the other end is the dam that keeps all the river water under control, where you can see the waterfall (some days more exuberant than others) and take a stroll along the upper river – which is where this photo was taken.

I should mention that I wrote this poem with my youngest daughter in mind, not only because she’s in the photo, but because her birthday is coming up in just a couple weeks, so I thought it might be a nice early birthday gift for her.

I also need to wish the great Percy Bysshe Shelley a posthumous Happy Birthday, as he was born on this very date, Aug. 4, 1792; his poem, “Ozymandias,” is one of my favorites, and is one of the reasons why I started learning to write poetry – and specifically sonnets – in high school.

Donna Smith at Mainely Write is hosting Poetry Friday today, so head on over to check out all of the day’s links and fun!

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“Delicious language…ingenious metamorphoses” – Kirkus Reviews

“Balladic verse” – Publisher’s Weekly

“Imaginative…fantastical” – ALA Booklist

“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 – and stay tuned for details about the big September Blog Tour and book signings that are coming up!

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Poetry Friday: Phoebe babies and another great review for “Flashlight Night!”

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This photo was taken about a month ago, but I’m just now getting around to sharing a poem with it because I’ve been so busy with kids and work and everything else that fills up a summer. But I wanted to post this, because the phoebe family keeps coming back year after year, building and rebuilding their little home above the front door to our home…and they have become as much a part of our family as the creatures living inside.

ALA Booklist loves “Flashlight Night!”

I’ve mentioned before how happy I was to receive a positive review for my debut picture book from Publisher’s Weekly…and a starred review from Kirkus was just outstanding! Now, I’ve learned that the American Library Association’s Booklist will be publishing their review of Flashlight Night next Wed., August 2 – and it appears they, too, seemed to enjoy it:

“A flashlight becomes a gateway to a whole new world in this imaginative picture book…Despite the excitement, the gentle rhyming text will wind young listeners down and help prepare them for dreamland adventures of their own.”

Those are just the first and last sentences of the review…wait’ll you see what the reviewer has to say, in-between! (I’ll be sure to share the link here and on Facebook and Twitter once it comes out – but I’m sure you could’ve guessed that, right??)

By the way, Linda Mitchell at A Word Edgewise is hosting Poetry Friday today with a fun, unusual poetry prompt and lots of links to more poetry…so be sure to head over and say hi!

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“Delicious language…ingenious metamorphoses” – Kirkus Reviews

“Balladic verse” – Publisher’s Weekly

“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 – and stay tuned for details about the big September Blog Tour and book signings that are coming up!

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

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: Love is in the air…

The FRIGIDaire, actually…

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Ecstasy, July 2017

In summer’s deep heat,
no joy is greater
than the sweet icy kiss
of my refrigerator.

– © 2017 Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved

Katie at The Logonauts is hosting Poetry Friday today, so please stop by & say hi, and check out all the poetry links and fun!

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“Delicious language…ingenious metamorphoses” – Kirkus Reviews

“Balladic verse” – Publisher’s Weekly

“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 – and stay tuned for details about the big September Blog Tour and book signings that are coming up!

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

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: Ocean musings and a GIVEAWAY!

Allow me to show you around the office…

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This is a photo I took on our first day of vacation at York Beach, Maine, last week. We were there for our annual summer kick-off excursion (fortunately, we have friends who own a cottage so we get to rent it on the cheap!), and we got to celebrate both Father’s Day and my birthday (June 24) while we were there.

As always, the kids had a blast playing in the waves, playing on the sand, playing at the park, playing at the house, playing while we were trying to get the to go to sleep…ok, well, that last part wasn’t so great. But we all enjoyed it, and I especially enjoyed the surprise that was waiting for me when  we got back home:

That’s right…an entire box of advance copies of Flashlight Night!

So after I set aside 5 to give to my kids – to whom I dedicated the book – I decided I should give some of these things away.

So here’s what we’re going to do:

  • If you’d like to win a signed copy, just leave a comment, “like” this post, or share this post via Twitter and/or Facebook! (and if you do all four, that’s four chances to win!) If you share via Twitter, please tag me @MattForrestVW so I can give you credit; if you share via Facebook, just leave the link in the comments section below.
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  • I’d also LOVE to announce my 500th follower…so if you are not already following this blog, I hope you’ll consider doing so. Right now, I have 487 followers, so the number 13 could turn out to be very lucky:  my 500th follower will receive another signed copy!

Flashlight Night (Boyds Mills Press) hits bookshelves Sept. 19, 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. 19 and purchase it at your favorite local independent bookstore.

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

For more poetry, links, and fun, be sure to visit my friend Diane Mayr, the Haiku Queen, at Random Noodling for today’s complete Poetry Friday roundup. (And be sure to stop back here next Friday, when I announce the winners!)

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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: “Clematis,” part of the Summerscapes Gallery!

poetryfridaybutton-fulllI’d like to first thank the folks who’ve seen me or messaged me about the latest poetry anthology I’m fortunate to be part of (a major project from former U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate Kenn Nesbitt)…I spent a little time this past Tuesday talking about it, and I can’t wait to see it!

Today, I wanted to share a poem I wrote over the summer about one of the flowers we have growing here at our house, a clematis. I never realized until I started researching it, but there are TONS of different varieties of this flower, which happens to be part of the buttercup family.

There are also a bunch of different names for this flower, depending on whereabouts you live in the country…and that’s where my poem took root. (Pun intended!)

clematis-graphic
(click to enlarge)

This poem is also part of Carol Varsalona’s Summerscapes Gallery, which is now posted on her blog. Over 65 contributors provided photos, poetry, or other text to celebrate the season that has just passed by, and I encourage you to stop by and check it out!

I also encourage you to visit Violet Nesdoly’s home on the web! Violet not only has a wrap-up of the big poetic shindig known as the WWU Poetry Camp (I’m so bummed I couldn’t go!), but she also has today’s complete Poetry Friday roundup!

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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!
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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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Book Review: “When the Sun Shines on Antarctica”

Antarctica coverIrene Latham has done it again. A couple years ago, she was hanging out at a watering hole on the African savanna (and that’s not a metaphor – by “watering hole,” I mean a real watering hole) and this year she’s at the bottom of the world, on the largest continent – and largest desert – on the planet.

Irene follows up her 2014 children’s poetry collection, Dear Wandering Wildebeest: And Other Poems from the Water Hole (Millbrook Press) with the equally entertaining and insightful When the Sun Shines on Antarctica: And Other Poems from the Frozen Continent (Millbrook Press).

In fifteen poems, Irene not only teaches readers a little bit about the wildlife and habitat of Antarctica, she imbues each of her subjects with a bit of magic here and a touch of tenderness there, so that each poem helps bring the reader a little closer to the truth. The book opens with the dawn of summer and concludes with the start of winter as the sun sets.

When the Sun Shines on Antarctica

Icebergs brighten
as the sky peels

itself of darkness
and stretches awake.

Glaciers murmur.
Penguins reunite

and seals rouse
from slumber

Whales breach
and blow;

waves rush
and slush

against shifting
ice shelves.

Welcome,
Summer.

We’ve been waiting
for you.

– © 2016 Irene Latham (Millbrook Press), all rights reserved

The poems are primarily free verse, so Irene makes great use of internal rhyme and enjambment to create touching scenes that are sometimes quiet, and other times full of energy.

One of the nice things about this book – and Wildebeest, as well – is that although there is plenty to learn via Irene’s poems, they never feel didactic; they are poetry for poetry’s sake, first and foremost. Sidebars on each page provide more information about each subject (from seals to krill to brinicles!), and the earthy blues and greens of Anna Wadham’s illustrations complement the icy, watery nature of Irene’s scenery – all adding up to a beautiful book to read as well as simply admire.

I had a chance to chat with Irene about the book, her life of writing, and what she has coming up in the near future!

Irene headSo tell us, how did a social work major from the University of Alabama end up with 5 books of poetry, 2 middle grade novels, and another poetry collection due out next month?

I took the scenic route, that’s for sure! While I didn’t attend a single writing class in college, all those courses on developmental psychology and family dynamics have certainly enriched my writing life.

Without any training, how did you end up learning your craft? And what was your first published piece? What do you think of it today – still good, not bad, or would you totally revise it?

I started honing my craft by entering contests sponsored by Alabama State Poetry Society. At first I didn’t place at all, then I started getting Honorable Mentions, and eventually prize money! My big break came when I won a chapbook contest — no cash, but publication and 100 copies of my chapbook NOW PLAYING (poems that used classic movie titles, but were often about something else entirely).

I kind of cringe when I read those poems now — as I’ve continued to grow and develop as a poet I can now see all sorts of flaws! But it was my best work at the time, and an essential, precious part of my journey. Those poems are exactly what they needed to be — and one or two of them I do still like. 🙂

How do you move between the children’s poetry thought process and an adult’s? Do you work exclusively on one or the other, or do you bounce back and forth, depending on your mood and inspiration?

My initial efforts are most often from my adult self. I was writing a poem last week about pears, and the image that came immediately to mind was Sylvia Plath’s “little Buddhas.” I love that! But of course a kid probably wouldn’t get that. I so admire those children’s poets among us who seem to so easily and naturally find those child-like comparisons. It’s a challenge for me. I am constantly having to coax my inner 8 year old out to play. She’s shy, but one thing I’m good at is persistence.

WildebeestTwo years ago, you were at an African watering hole; this year, you’re in Antarctica! How do you come up with the ideas for your collections, and how long does it usually take you to complete a manuscript?

I have an abundance of obsessions, so coming up with themes/ideas for collections is not my problem. Usually they arise when I read books or go to museums or attend local community events where a speaker might mention something, and I investigate further, and next thing I know, I’m neck-deep!

As for the second part of your question, “complete” is a very slippery word, isn’t it? I could keep tinkering with poems forever and more than once have had a great idea for a way to improve a manuscript after the book is already in print. It’s one of the things that attracts me to writing in the first place – the endless learning curve.

I can churn out a bunch of first-draft poems that will be the skeleton of a poetry book manuscript within a few weeks – I strive for a poem a day. But then it can take years for the individual poems to grow and develop and for me to figure out the point of it all. I’m constantly asking of the manuscript: what is your purpose? what are you trying to say to the world? what else?

Next month, you have ANOTHER collection for children, Fresh and Delicious! Tell us about that! How did it come about?

Fresh Delicious coverFRESH DELICIOUS: Poems from the Farmers’ Market (Wordsong) is my first attempt at poems for a younger (K-2) audience. It started with a contest through my SCBWI region (Southern Breeze, which includes AL, GA, and the FL panhandle). Each June, for free, we can submit some pages for a contest that’s judged by editors. All entries receive a feedback sheet. I wanted to enter the contest, and I had just been to the farmers’ market. Voila! Poems from the farmers’ market!

I was so excited about the poems that I did NOT enter the contest – results aren’t announced until October – and sent them straight to my agent instead. She sent them to Rebecca Davis at WordSong, who had read (and rejected) at least three, perhaps four prior manuscripts (including Dear Wandering Wildebeest). She liked the poems, saw lots of promise, but didn’t feel they were quite ready. Instead, she gave me some brilliant feedback (seriously. BRILLIANT), and off I went, revising away! A couple of revisions later, she presented it at the editorial meeting and we got a green light on the project. O frabjous day!

I am always trying to explain to people that children’s poetry does not need to rhyme! (In fact, I’m hosting a workshop at an upcoming SCBWI conference about free verse) Why do you suppose you are drawn more towards free verse than rhyming poetry?

I am so happy you are teaching people that children’s poetry need not rhyme! Confession: for many years I thought all children’s poetry was Shel Silverstein! I really didn’t know there was a market for the kind of poems I write, which are by and large free verse, until I attended a poetry retreat with Rebecca Kai Dotlich in 2011 (organized by the one and only Robyn Hood Black! I’m so so grateful!). That weekend was a turning point in my writing life.

Afterwards I went on a nearly sleepless writing jag for a week as I discovered I could write the way I write for adults – but for kids. I have a gypsy heart, and being hemmed in by form or rhyme makes me irritable and unhappy. Plus I love beautiful words and lyricism, and for me, writing is a spiritual practice. It’s a way for me to love the world. I am able to achieve all of those things with free verse.

By the way, I’d be remiss if I didn’t congratulate you on TWO OTHER manuscripts you just sold, Pop! Bam! Boom! and It’s Not Black and White. What are they about?

Thank you! Pop! Bam! Boom! started with Langston Hughes’ poem “Harlem.” http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/175884 I got to thinking about all the things that explode – seed pods and symphonies and dreams – and I started writing. It’s Not Black & White is a special project based on real-life experiences that I co-wrote with Charles Waters. Told in two voices, it’s about friendship, race, and understanding as it happens in a 5th grade classroom when a black boy and a white girl are forced to be partners on a writing project.

Final question! I have to ask…do you ever get a chance to chat with Father Goose -Charles Ghigna – who’s just south of you in Homewood, AL? And what’s the best advice you ever received – from anyone?

Chuck and I do, in fact, chat from time to time! He’s famous around these parts (more than a hundred books to his credit now!), and he’s been a lovely supporter of my work.

As for advice: When my first book of poems came out (2007), my husband gave me a small plaque that reads, “Live Your Poem.” That’s where my blog name comes from! For years I have shared in presentations that writers have a responsibility to “live a life worth writing about.”

But it’s more that that: we need to be present, open, and delight in our lives – really LIVE. That’s poetry! I also love how those words can mean whatever they need to mean to an individual – your poem-life will be different from mine. And every single incarnation is beautiful.

I think that concept is what draws most of us to poetry, Irene…so thank you for taking the time to chat!

Thank you, Matt, for having me, and for your great questions. I’m excited for YOUR forthcoming books. Yay!

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To my readers, I’m so glad YOU took the time to read today’s post, I’m going to give you an opportunity to win an autographed copy of Antarctica! Just leave a comment below, and I’ll draw a winner at the end of the month…so please let your friends know, so they can get in on it, as well. (and if you share this post via Twitter (using the Twitter button below), you’ll get an ADDITIONAL entry!)

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