Poetry Friday: The Legacy and Spirit of Donald Hall (and a bizarre chain of events)

It is truly amazing the way some things in our lives just all come together, as if they were meant to be.

On June 23, 2018, we lost one of the most important New Hampshire poets of the 20th century, Donald Hall. Among his many accolades, Hall was a former U.S. Poet Laureate and New Hampshire State Poet Laureate, and received the National Medal of Arts in 2010.

He had lived most recently in Wilmot, NH, about 35 minutes from where I live, but I never met him; he was rather reclusive in his final years, and while many knew where he lived, few ever saw him. But he continued writing very nearly up to the point he passed, a career stretching some 60 years or so.

Living in the Mt. Kearsarge area of the Granite State, Hall was often inspired by life on his farm, the wildlife around it, and the mountain that overlooked it:

“Mount Kearsarge”

Great blue mountain! Ghost.
I look at you 
from the porch of the farmhouse
where I watched you all summer…
(You can read the entire poem here)

Where am I going with this?

Well, you see, shortly after Hall’s death, Encircle Publications of Maine decided to publish a poetry anthology to celebrate his legacy, and put out a call to established New England poets to submit original works that were either inspired by Hall’s work or in some way reflected his spirit.

Being a New Hampshire boy who was not only very familiar with Hall but also lived in the same geographic area from which Hall drew much of his inspiration, I decided to submit a poem I had written about six years ago, titled “Stone-Kicking.”

I first began forming the lines of the poem just a mile away from my house, as I walked along a dirt road one autumn. The words, “I kick my dreams like stones in the road” coalesced in my head, and I knew right then I had a poem that needed to be written…which I began doing as soon as I got home.

Fast forward to today, I have learned that my poem was accepted – and will be published in the book, Except for Love: New England Poets inspired by Donald Hall (Encircle Pub, 2019), scheduled for release on June 23, 2019, exactly one year since his passing. To say I’m honored and thrilled to be part of such an important book is an understatement.

Oh, and how does all this relate to what I said at the beginning of this post?

The very road that inspired my poem…with Mt. Kearsarge in the distance.

That’s right. I was inspired to write a poem – a poem that will be included in a book celebrating Donald Hall – while walking along a dirt road that lay in the presence of the very mountain that is synonymous with Hall himself! Call it Fate, call it coincidence, call it Divine Intervention; I had no idea the significance of what was doing, those six years ago.

Yet, here we are.

I’ll be sure to share more news of the book as we get closer to the publication date. For now, if you’re looking for more poetry, head Down Under – where my Aussie friend, Kathryn Apel, is hosting today’s complete Poetry Friday roundup!

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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: National Flashlight Day, “A Better Christmas,” & the 2018 Winter Poetry Swap

Happy “National Flashlight Day!”

In honor of the holiday, I’m going to do a little light reading…

From “Flashlight Night” (Boyds Mills Press, 2017), all rights reserved, reprinted with permission. (click to enlarge)

Yes, National Flashlight Day is really a thing – celebrated annually on the day of the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. (Hence, a good reason to celebrate flashlights) So why not join me, and pull out your favorite flashlight-related book and join the celebration??

The 2018 Winter Poetry Swap

Last Friday, I shared the poem I received from Margaret Simon as part of Tabatha Yeatts‘ annual Winter Poetry Swap. Tabatha randomly gave Margaret my name, so Margaret had to write a poem for me and sent it with a small gift. Today, I’m excited to share the poem I wrote for Donna Smith of Mainely Write fame! Tabatha gave me Donna’s name, so I needed to come up with a poem for her…but it didn’t take me long to decide what to do.

As I did for Margaret a couple of years ago, I spent a fair amount of time combing through past Christmas posts from Donna’s blog, culling some of the choice lines I thought I might be able to use – and once I had completed that, I wrote a found poem using those words and phrases. I then used a photo of our outdoor Christmas tree here at our house as a backdrop and created this:

(click to enlarge)

The 2018 CYBILS Awards

In addition to getting presents wrapped, Christmas cookies made, and visiting a local elementary school today, I am a first-round judge of the annual CYBILS Awards‘ Poetry category. I’ve therefore been trying to read as many of the 48 nominated books as possible in order to narrow the list down to a shortlist of SEVEN! After much deliberation, we’ve finally done it – with a nice mix of poetry styles and genres – and are sending off the list to the second-round panelists, who determine the winner early next year. As soon as the list becomes official and is posted on the CYBILS website, I’ll be sure to share the news here!

Looking for more poetry? You’re in luck! Buffy Silverman is hosting today’s complete Poetry Friday roundup, so head on over to her blog for all the links and fun!

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


  

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

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

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

Thank you to everyone for your support!

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

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

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

Poetry Friday: Shroom-ku!

In an effort to encourage her Facebook followers to engage in some creative writing, author Jane Yolen recently shared a time-lapse video post of toadstools sprouting. It was beautiful, amazing – and, indeed, inspiring. So I thought I’d share the haiku I wrote as my response to the challenge…

flames burst forth, spatter
dull forest floors; flowers, sprites
claim undue credit
.
– © 2018 Matt F. Esenwine, all rights reserved
.

By the way, I have been neglect in mentioning that I am once again a first-round judge of the annual CYBILS Awards‘ Poetry category! This means that not only am I charged with narrowing down the 60 or so nominated books down to a shortlist of SEVEN…but I also have to find the time to read as many of those books as I can. So if you wonder why I haven’t been making the rounds on Poetry Friday as much as I usually do, it’s simply because time is so precious and scarce these days.

Speaking of neglecting to mention things…I’m also taking part in Tabatha Yeatts‘ annual Winter Poetry Swap, a sort of poetic Secret Santa type of thing, in which Tabatha gives each participant the name of another, and that person has to write a poem for the person and send it to him or her, often with a small gift. I’ll share the poem I wrote here, once I know the person I sent it to has received it – probably next week.

And speaking of Poetry Friday…for more poetry, be sure to visit Liz Steinglass’ blog for today’s complete roundup!

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


  

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

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

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

Thank you to everyone for your support!

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

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

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

Poetry Prompt: “Deep, deep…” an iambic pentameter poetry prompt

You may recall that I spent a week at a Highlights Foundation poetry workshop back in October with Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Georgia heard, and a wonderful crew of writers yearning to learn more about children’s poetry. During that week, attendees were given a variety of poetry prompts to fire up our brains and imaginations, including Popsicle sticks, paint swatches, and poetic forms like concrete poetry and iambic pentameter.

The latter is where this week’s poem comes from!

One day we were discussing iambic pentameter, a meter with which I’ve become very comfortable writing since I discovered it in high school English class. Rebecca and Georgia suggested we take a 35-40 minute break to get some fresh air outside…and find something to write about, in iambic pentameter. (For a brief overview of this type of meter, click here)

We were tasked with writing a couplet – but when I saw the large stone wall outside the main building (The Barn, as they call it), I didn’t feel a couplet would be quite enough to do it justice. So I just started writing – and by the time we were called to share our work, I had completed eight lines. As with most poetry prompts, it’s neither polished nor perfect…but I’m sharing it because, as I’ve said here before, all poetry needs to start from somewhere, and the important thing about writing is that you DO IT. Remember my mantra: #WriteLikeNoOneIsReading!

(click to enlarge)

I spiffed it up a bit with a photo of a stone wall on my own property, but that doesn’t change the fact that there is much more that I could do with this poem to improve it (edit some words out, add more internal rhyme, etc.), but for what it is, I like it, and will probably not be tackling any revisions anytime soon.

For all of today’s Poetry Friday links, head on over to Carol’s Corner for the complete Poetry Friday roundup and a review of K.A. Holt’s Knockout (Chronicle, 2018)!

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

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: Popsicle Poetry returns!

Last month, I shared an example of a poetry prompt I was given at the recent Highlights Foundation poetry workshop I had attended. A few words were written on a Popsicle stick, and I had to come up with a poem using those words. After posting the poem both here and on Instagram, I decided to keep doing it as a way to practice thinking creatively.

So today, I thought I’d share a couple of the short poems I’ve written in response to this prompt – to give you an idea of what one can do with just a couple of words and a few minutes. (all poems © 2018 Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved)

(click to enlarge)

Keep in mind, these are not highly-polished, award-winning pieces of literary genius; I rarely spend more than 15-20 minutes on any of them, because they are simply a means to fire up the brain cells and get those synapses closing. Perhaps, if I discover something useful within these poems, I might decide to buff and polish – but I’m worrying about any of that at this point.

(click to enlarge)

Many folks ask me why I share poems that aren’t perfect here, and I always explain that I feel that it’s worth showing that we all have to start somewhere, with some sort of germ of an idea, with mistakes and errors, before we can begin striving for perfection…which rarely comes. (By the way, I do not write the words – that defeats the purpose of being spontaneous – so I ask my wife, son, or whoever might be around to jot down a short phrase on the stick, and then I jump to it!)

(click to enlarge)

I must admit, I did spend a little more time on that last one than I usually do – perhaps 25-30 minutes – because the reverso form, popularized by the incredible Marilyn Singer, is so difficult and I was having too much fun. By the way, if you’re wondering how much my wife is loving winter, just look at the first and third prompts she gave me, as a hint to turn up the thermostat! Thanks also to my 8-year-old, who gave me prompt #2. What would I do without my family?

For more poetry – far more polished and publishable! – head on over to Live Your Poem, where Irene Latham is hosting today’s Poetry Friday roundup with a review AND GIVEAWAY of Laura Purdie Salas’ beautiful new book, Lion of the Sky (Millbrook, April 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: A Paint Swatch Poetry Prompt

If you’ve been paying any kind of attention to this blog the past couple of weeks, you know how inspiring my visit to the Highlights poetry workshop was. And you’ve probably seen a couple of the short “practice poems” I wrote while I was there, using writing prompts like #PopsiclePoetry and The Word Garden.

Well, I’m not through yet!

Today I’m sharing a little light verse I wrote as part of a writing prompt using paint swatches – you know, those colored cards you get from hardware stores that show the name of the paint and what it looks like when dry? In this case, attendees were handed a random card and asked to write a poem using either the name of the paint or the color itself as inspiration.

Always eager to tackle a challenge head-on, I opted for…both. The paint, named “Bamboo,” was a light, creamy-chocolate brown, with hints of gray. Keep in mind, these poems were for inspiration and practice, so I only had about 15 minutes or so to write them. These are not polished, perfect pieces of poetic preeminence; rather, they are quick, unpolished responses to writing prompts.

The first poem that came to mind was based on the name:

Bamboo

One day I brought the jungle home
and laid it on the  floor.
Smooth and firm beneath my feet,
I vowed to find some more:
a chair, a table, window blinds,
outside to the veranda.
I marvel at its beauty, but
feel sorry for the panda.

– © 2018 Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved

I was running out of time, so my second poem, based on the color itself, was even shorter:

Life

Cappuccino, latte, chai,
tall or extra-venti –
I’m happy when my cup is full
but sad because it’s empty.

– 2018 Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved

I have to say, this was really a fun prompt! So try some #PaintSwatchPoetry yourself sometime, and see what comes of it. You can find more poetry (much more polished, too, I might add) at Today’s Little Ditty, where Michelle H. Barnes is hosting today’s Poetry Friday roundup! But go easy on her, as it’s the Friday after the U.S. elections and she might still be a bit…umm…jittery. 😉

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


  

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

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

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

Thank you to everyone for your support!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A few other highlights:

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

Photo courtesy of Georgia Heard. (Click to enlarge)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(click to enlarge)

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

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

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

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

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

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BOOK SIGNING!

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

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

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

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


  

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

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

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

Thank you to everyone for your support!

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

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

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

Poetry Friday: Celebrating summer…in October!

You’ll have to forgive me as I’m a wee bit exhausted, having just gotten back home from a 5-day workshop sponsored by the Highlights Foundation at Highlights’ location in Honesdale, PA. Rebecca Kai Dotlich and Georgia Heard led a group of children’s authors and poets, Yours Truly included, along a journey of inspiration and education, and my brain is still trying to digest it all! It’s been 5 years since I attended one of these workshops – which I highly recommend – and I’ll be sure to provide a review of the experience here, sometime in the next couple of weeks, once I’ve recuperated.

Fortunately for me, Carol Varsalona just unveiled her newest poetry/photo gallery last week, The Art of Summering, and I’m proud to have 4 poems included! So today I thought I’d share her gallery, as it’s been a lot of work for her and she has once again outdone herself. I do hope you’ll spend some time enjoying the photography, artwork, and poetry by many of our Poetry Friday family members.

Still need more poetry? For today’s entire Poetry Friday roundup, please visit my friend Brenda Davis Harsham at Friendly Fairy Tales!

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

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


  

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

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

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

Thank you to everyone for your support!

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

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

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

Poetry Friday: Celebrating National Poetry Day with…”A Poem”

Did you know that Thursday, October 4 was National Poetry Day? Well, it was!

In the U.K.

You see, the United States celebrates National Poetry Month each April, while the United Kingdom celebrates poetry now; it began as an initiative by the Forward Arts Foundation to encourage an appreciation of the literary form and to celebrate all its various forms.

So to celebrate, I thought I’d dust off a poem I wrote 7 years ago, in 2011. I shared it here two years later (in April, ironically), but it has gone through multiple tweaks and changes since. It still needs at least one more tweak – but I’ll deal with that some other day:

Photo courtesy of Katherine Esenwine, ©2018 Katie Bri Photography (Click to enlarge )

Many thanks to my daughter, Katherine, for providing another one of her beautiful photographs to accompany my poem! Need more poetry to celebrate? Then please head over to The Opposite of Indifference, where Tabatha Yeatts is hosting Poetry Friday with a German poem about a Chinese tree. (I’ve got you wondering now, don’t I??)

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

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


  

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

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

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

Thank you to everyone for your support!

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

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

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

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

I make a living using my imagination.

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Spring, 2016:
    (click to enlarge)

    Fred takes a 2-week trip to the United Kingdom to sketch and photograph the countryside, the shipyard, the ocean, and museum artifacts in preparation. Much of what he sees – including the trail into the woods, the clipper ship, and the rocky arch where the Kraken hides – ends up in the book. I tell Fred that I should have taken the trip first, THEN written the book – what a sweet tax-write off!
    .

  • July-Dec. 2016: Dummies of the book continue to be put together and taken apart, revised and edited. By early Dec., we realize that my original ending,“all is still within, without,” is simply not going to work with Fred’s illustrations, so I change the line to “adventure lingers, stirs about.” (It’s called “collaboration,” folks!) By Dec. 14, we have what we believe is the final dummy version of the entire book, text and illustrations.
    .
  • March 2017: And now we have a cover! The colors are a little bolder than they will eventually be, but it looks great:

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

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

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

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

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

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

    was for an email blast for the online book retailer Mackin. With so many positive reviews, our publisher wanted as many potential customers as possible to see them.
    .

  • Oct. 7, 2017: Illustrator Fred Koehler informs me that The Polk Museum of Art in Lakeland, FL is installing an exhibit featuring his original artwork for Flashlight Night. Each piece is to be framed and mounted on the wall, along with my text, in such as way as to allow a viewer to follow the story page-by-page:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!