Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme

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Archive for the tag “writing”

Poetry Friday: “Pirate Dreams”

This will be my last blog post of the month, as the family is packing up and heading off to my remote office starting tomorrow:

You can’t see my desk, chair, microphone, or reference books because they’re just out of frame, an hour away.

 

Yes, it’s that time of year again when we head off to York Beach, Maine – just over the border, but a million miles from home. In fact, I wasn’t able to post anything earlier this week because I’ve been so busy trying to get us ready for the trip while wrapping up a big radio commercial project I completed for the New Hampshire Association of Broadcasters and simultaneously writing query letters and a new picture book manuscript.

Believe me, if anyone needs a vacation around here, it’s me!

Cleo - 17 years old

Happy birthday, Cleopatra. You’ve earned your spot on the bed.

But before I get to today’s Poetry Friday offering, first things first: I need to share a photo of the lovely lady about whom I wrote last week. She just turned 17 years old, and I surprised a lot of folks with that last line.

Cleo has enjoyed a long life of mousing, playing, and generally keeping us all in line…and I worry if she’ll make it to 18. If she doesn’t, we’ll probably find her either on the bed or in the bathtub – her two favourite spots. (What is it with cats and bathrooms??)

Now, then, for today’s poem: something I wrote last year, shortly after we got back from our first trip to York Beach. Interestingly, the poem has less to do with York Beach and more to do with my own memories of visiting the local shoreline as a child two or three times each summer.

Pirate Dreams

The first seashell
I ever found
on my own
still whispers to me
when I hold it to my ear.

The pinwheel
Mom bought
at that candy shop
where you could watch them
make salt water taffy
all day, still spins
like a shiny new motor.

And above my head,
atop my bed, The Jolly Roger –
that faded black plastic flag
I won at the arcade
down by the boardwalk –
flies proudly.

…….It’s been a long time
…….since we’ve been to the beach,
…….but Dad says
…….this year might be the year.

…….Already
…….I can taste the salty air,
…….smell seaweed drying
…….under hazy sun,
…….and feel hot sand
.. ….slipping between toes.

Until then,
I’ll let my seashell –
the first one I ever found
on my own –
lull me to sleep
while my pinwheel motor
spins and spins
with The Jolly Roger
flying high.

© 2014, Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved

poetryfridaybutton-fulllYou’ll find all of today’s Poetry Friday links at A Year of Reading, so be sure to check out Mary Lee’s review of a new farm animal picture book, along with lots and lots of poetry! Enjoy the rest of your June…I’ll be back on Independence Day Eve, July 3rd!

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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)
Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

When people stop trying

I’ve been noticing something a lot lately. I’ve been noticing spelling errors made by people who are supposed to know how to spell things. I’ve been reading errors in grammar made by people who are supposed to know how to write.

I’ve been hearing things spoken incorrectly by people who get paid to speak.

Is the world becoming more and more full of folks who just don’t care enough to bother, or am I becoming a curmudgeon?

Thankfully, I’m still an exuberant, virile, young man…so the answer appears to be the former.

Dachshund

Poor little guy had no idea he was going to be the basis for a blog post.

Lack of communication in the communications industry

Seriously – what is going on these days? Everywhere I turn I’m bombarded with mistakes made by precisely those people who should not be making these mistakes.
A few examples:

– A radio news reporter was relating a story on-air about a domestic dispute involving a man, his girlfriend, and his dog. When the woman doing the reporting made reference to the man’s “dash-hound,” I had no clue what she was talking about until it occurred to me she apparently had never heard of a dachshund. Granted, the average American might not recognize that word as being pronounced “DAHK-suhnd,” but one of the first lessons in radio I ever learned 25 years ago was, if you don’t know how to pronounce something – ask!

– A local TV news outlet shared a news story on their Facebook page recently, recognizing the anniversary of the discovery of the bodies of two young girls, whose killer is still unknown. The headline noted that the girls have never been found. Now, not to be insensitive, but if their bodies were discovered some 15 years ago, I’m pretty sure the girls aren’t going to pop up anytime soon. Who writes this stuff??

– The other day, I heard a radio commercial I almost couldn’t stand listening to. The audio was thin and distorted, the person speaking sounded completely unenthused about whatever he was talking about, and I can’t even remember what they were selling because I just kept waiting for it to end. The commercial sounded like it had been recorded over a telephone…because it probably had been.

Make an effort, people!

Granted, you may be prone to a malapropism from time to time. You might use less-than-perfect grammar when leaving a Facebook comment. Heck, even I find spelling mistakes in this blog sometimes months after I’ve posted!  But these are examples of glaring errors made by people paid to not make these mistakes.

The person who didn’t know what a “dash-hound” actually mispronounces words all the time; it became a nearly daily occurrence before I stopped listening altogether.

TV news departments have large staffs of people who are paid good money to communicate the news, so grammar and syntax should not be a problem area.

No radio commercial should ever be recorded over the telephone…ever. Even the ones that are written to sound like they’re telephone conversations should be recorded in-studio. The particular commercial in question is either the result of a lazy producer or a sales rep who was given way too much control over the production process.

Grammar-Yoda

Human error…or something worse?

We all make mistakes. As I said, I understand that. But the preponderance of examples such as these leads me to wonder if something else is going on…something much worse.

In each of the three cases I shared above, a simple solution would have been to take one extra step. The radio reporter could have asked someone how to pronounce this word she’s never seen before. The TV news headline writer could have had someone proofread the post first. And the business owner who recorded the awful commercial could have come in to the studio.

But instead, that one extra step was neglected. It could be called laziness or ineptitude.

I prefer to call it apathy.

…and apathy IS worse

Laziness is a human condition, a state of being. Ineptitude is a lack of skills capable of completing a task.

But apathy is a lack of concern for that which one should have concern! Apathy, as inactive as it may seem, is actually a very active thing. It prevents people from producing good work not because they are lazy, inept, or otherwise incapable. It prevents them from performing because they just don’t care.

So whether it’s your job, your marriage, or any kind of project of which you find yourself involved, don’t be apathetic.

Don’t not care.

And if you recognize that you truly don’t care about the project, step back, step aside, or step down – and let someone who does care do the job.

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This just in: I had not even had a chance to hit “post” when a Facebook friend shared this ridiculous headline about an “amphibious” pitcher!  That’s right…he doesn’t just pitch with both hands, folks, he can live underwater, too! Once again, where’s a proofreader when you need one??

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SCVBWI_Member-badge (5 years)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)
Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

The Art of Poetry Voiceovers

If you think you don’t like poetry – hang on a second. I just might change your mind in a few minutes.

ID-10084724 (Mic)Anyone who has read this blog more than once or twice probably knows by now that in addition to being a voice artist, I also write quite a bit of poetry. Most of it is for children, although I do write quite a bit of adult-themed poetry, as well.

So when I was considering what to write about for today’s post, I had the thought that it might be nice to combine the two.

But how to do that? I decided to simply take a moment and share what I think are some really great examples of poetry voiceovers done by non-voiceover professionals – that is, poems read by the poets themselves. And not just “poetry readings,” but true voiceovers, designed for production with video.

There are some truly astounding examples out there of poetry and voice work coming together.

Take, for instance, this short poem by poet/author Freya Manfred, who has written six books of poetry as well as a memoir about her life as the daughter of novelist Frederick Manfred:

She has such a calm, reassuring, knowledgeable-sounding voice…I imagine her narrating the next National Geographic documentary. (and yes, that’s a compliment!)

Then there’s this captivating and moving video by Canadian poet Shane Koyczan, which has garnered more than 16 million views in a little over 2 years:

Prefer something a little more understated? The following poem by Minneapolis poet/lawyer Tim Nolan is a bit more cerebral than the previous two, and features a drier – yet still effective – voiceover:

Finally, I have to share the young-guy-next-door, tell-it-like-it-is style delivery of poet and artist Todd Boss. Like fellow Minnesotan Nolan, Todd is an extremely creative fellow; he not only has two books of poetry out, but also writes poetry on commission and creates ingenious works of poetic art for pubic display. My thanks to friend, poet Steven Withrow, for sharing this video:

In their own ways, each of these folks brings poetry to life in different ways – through their unique words, of course, but also via their unique vocalizations of those words. One stressed word here, an unstressed syllable there, a too-short pause at the wrong moment…could create an entirely different mood, or worse, lose the connection created with the listener.

Professional voice work does, indeed, require an understanding of words, emotions, and sounds…and these poets, although not professional voice actors, obviously have a solid grasp on how best to relate their words from the printed page to a listener’s ear. I hope you enjoyed these, and hope you find others you will love on your own!

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

Poetry Friday: 4 Poems in 4 Days

Poetry_Friday logoYou may have noticed that poetry has making the rounds on Facebook. Last week, I was tagged by my Lullaby & Kisses Sweet page-spread mate Heidi E.Y. Stemple to share 4 poems in 4 days. By accepting this challenge, I also had to “tag” four friends (Steven Withrow, Renee LaTulippe, Michelle Heidenrich Barnes, and Joy Acey) to do the same.

Now, the poems could be originals or previously published by me or someone else – but since I thought writing a new one each day was more of a challenge, that’s what I decided to do. Taking the theme of springtime in the forest, I decided on four different poems, four different forms, four different days. Then life got in the way.

I spent most of my weekend driving between cities to help my ailing parents, one of whom is in a nursing home and one of whom was in the hospital. So as it turned out, I ended up sharing three new poems, and had to pull a previously-written one from a couple years ago, which had been based on a prompt from author/poet David L. Harrison:

…..Forest Dawn
……..(lanturne)

………….Sun
……..and thrush
warm the woods;
..help shake off cold
………….dew

.

New Hampshire, Spring (tanka)

Drone bees search a queen;
tom turkey struts the treeline
white-tailed buck defends
while sparrow sings a ballad.
All woodland, looking for love.

.

May in New England (light verse)

The weather gods are crazy –
they must be drunk or lost –
was 83 degrees today,
tonight we’re getting frost.

.

– all poems © 2015, Matt Forrest Esenwine

.

The Old Man and the Rain

The old man stares through window glass;
another rainy day.
He tries to catch a glimpse of sun,
but all he sees is grey.

He says a secret, silent prayer
to wish the rain away.
Although the man has work to do,
the boy would like to play.

.
– © 2013, Matt Forrest Esenwine

 .

Margaret Simon at Reflections on the Teche is hosting Poetry Friday today, so head on over for all the links, poetry, and info on new prompts and writing challenges!

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

Poetry Friday is here – with AWESOME news!

poetryfridaybutton-fulllA town-wide brownout that fried my computer.

A family of four battling the worst cold we’ve had in years, simultaneously.

Parents in ill health.

Such are the tribulations I’ve been dealing with over the past two weeks, which is why my blogging has been at a minimum. I apologize for being nearly invisible lately! Fortunately, the computer is back up & running (thank you, Dell tech support!) after hours and hours of re-installs, the family is starting to get over our illness, and my folks seem to be fairly stable…so I’m thrilled that I can finally make the announcement:

I’ve got a book deal!!

It is a pleasure and an honour to announce that I have signed a contract with Boyd’s Mills Press (one of Highlights magazine’s book publishing divisions) to publish my very first full-length picture book, Flashlight Night! I’m also very proud to have the wonderful and highly-esteemed Rebecca Davis as my editor…and now that the manuscript is approved and we can move forward, we’ve been discussing possible illustrators. A few have come to mind, so we’re hopeful one of them will work out!

boyds logo

What is Flashlight Night about? Well, let’s just say it’s a poetic adventure that’s not what it seems. I’ll tell you more as we get closer to publication, which we hope will be in 2017. Keep checking back here for updated posts!

(Now then, if you’ll allow me to pull myself off the ceiling, I’d like to share today’s Poetry Friday poem…!)

This is a tanka – a Japanese form that is similar to haiku but is two lines longer and actually predates the haiku – and was written rather quickly (about half an hour) as part of a Facebook challenge. I was tagged to share four poems in four days by Heidi E.Y. Stemple, the daughter of Jane Yolen and a fine author/poet in her own right, with the requirement that I share each one on my Facebook wall.

Now, I didn’t have to write four new poems, I just had to share four poems – so I simply could have posted some of my favourites of other writers. But that would have been too easy! Instead, I borrowed Heidi’s plan to write four poems about spring on her farm and decided to write four poems about springtime in the woods. The first one I wrote I shared on my wall yesterday (Thursday) morning; the one I’m sharing today is the second of four. Hope you like it:

New Hampshire, Spring

Drone bees search a queen;
tom turkey struts the treeline
white-tailed buck defends
while sparrow sings a ballad.
All woodland, looking for love.

– © Matt Forrest Esenwine, 2015

What will I write tomorrow? No idea! But feel free to connect with me on Facebook (or Twitter, Pinterest, or anywhere else you may find me) and we can keep up with each other!

As you probably know from the title of this post, I’m hosting Poetry Friday today – so please leave your links in the comments and I’ll update the post throughout the day. I’m looking forward to seeing what everyone is up to!

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Laura Shovan shares an excerpt from a new medical poetry anthology (yes, you heard right!) at Author Amok.

Robyn Hood Black provides a recap of a meeting of the Haiku Society of America and a short review of a book of author Jack Kerouac’s haikus at Life on the Deckle Edge. (Kerouac wrote haiku? Who knew??)

Fellow Granite Stater Diane Mayr recaps her time spent – and a poem written! – at the Massachusetts Poetry Festival at Random Noodling; meanwhile, over at Kurious Kitty, a touching Mary Oliver poem pays tribute to one of Diane’s co-workers.

Laura Purdie Salas find inspiration for her “poetryaction” series of poems from Jamie Swenson’s book, If You Were a Dog, at Writing the World for Kids.

What does Pompeii know? Linda Baie shares a poem about that exact question! It was written by a 5th-grade student, and you can see it at Teacher Dance.

Tara at A Teaching Life shares a poem by Gregory Djanikian that seems to speak to all those affected by the end of the school year – the students that are leaving, as well as the teachers that are saying goodbye.

Over at A Year of Reading, Mary Lee Hahn also says goodbye to another school year with her original poem.

In the “Haiku Garden” of Today’s Little Ditty, Michelle H. Barnes features a haiku by award-winning writer Loree Griffin Burns.

I love to hear about young children writing – and Jone MacCulloch recently received a poem from a first-grader, which she shares at Check It Out.

Sally Murphy spent three days at a young writers’ festival and was poetically inspired!

Donna Smith is very proud of a 2nd-grader she’s been working with, who just wrote her very first poems! She shares them both, along with two original poems of hers, at Mainely Write.

Penny Parker Klosterman features another familial collaboration – this time, it’s Julie Rowan-Zoch and her son, Aaron with a funny springtime poem. (although it’s not really that funny for the main character!)

Have you ever “doodled while you listened?” That’s what Heidi Mordhorst is doing over at My Juicy Little Universe, as she shares a page from her writer’s notebook.

If you’re a fan of nursery rhymes, be sure to check out Irene Latham’s review of the new anthology, Over the Hills and Far Away, at Live Your Poem.

It’s Chalkabration time at Reflections on the Teche, where Margaret Gibson Simon shares some poems in chalk that her students wrote just as the school year was coming to a close.

Keri Collins Lewis accepted a poetry challenge from Nikki Grimes and shares her success at Keri Recommends.

This Sunday is Bob Dylan’s birthday, and Jama Kim Rattigan is celebrating with all things Bob…and a meatball recipe! (Yes, there IS a connection) Visit Jama’s Alphabet Soup for the details.

There’s still no water at the No Water River…but there IS Douglas Florian! Renee LaTulippe interviews the author/poet/artist/illustrator/all-around good guy about his brand-new book, How to Draw a Dragon.

Amy Ludwig VanDerwater shares an original poem about writing at The Poem Farm – and is hoping you’ll share your notebooks!

What do Edwin Markham and Mark Knopfler have in common? Aside from the obvious “mark”s in their names, they have Tabatha Yeatts – who shares some words of wisdom from these two gentlemen at The Opposite of Indifference!

At There is No Such Thing as a God-Forsaken Town, Ruth is gearing up for her daughter’s last day of high school and shares a poem from the Poetry Friday Anthology for Middle School.

Catherine Johnson is celebrating Armadillo Day (ok, that’s a made-up thing, but they  SHOULD have its own day, shouldn’t they?) with poems by Eric Ode and Douglas Florian, and her original artwork.

Fats Suela shares two poems by Naomi Shihab Nye, one of the world’s most popular and influential poets (and a favorite of author/poet Kwame Alexander). Head on over to Gathering Books for the poems as well as background info on Nye and her writing.

At Dori Reads, Doraine Bennett reviews Susan Van Hecke’s Under the Freedom Tree and also shares a poem from it.

Otto the Owl Who Loved Poetry is a new book out by Vern Klousky, and Lorie Ann Grover shares a snippet from the book at ReaderTotz.

Lorie Ann also shares an original haiku at her blog, On Point.

Holly Thompson interviews Margarita Engle in Sylvia Vardell’s latest Poet-to-Poet interview series…check it out at Poetry for Children.

You can also visit Holly’s blog, Hatbooks, to read more about her interview!

Little Willow shares a piece from Martha Brockenbrough’s novel, The Game of Love and Death, at her blog, Bildungsroman.

Last but certainly never least, Joy Acey is in the middle of the same “4 poems in 4 days” Facebook challenge that I’m a part of, and she already has two poems up on her blog, Poetry for Kids Joy.

THIS JUST IN! Carol Varsalona is discussing inspiration, process, and notebooks at Beyond Literacy, as she takes part in Amy Ludwig VanDerwater’s “Sharing Our Notebooks” project.

ALSO JUST IN! At Pleasures from the Page, Ramona is enjoying several poetry books by Barbara Esbensen and shares one of Esbensen’s poems – just in time for the end of the school year.

 

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

Poetry Friday: Student poetry inspired by mine!

Poetry_Friday logoYou’ve got to love how inspiration breeds inspiration.

Back in February, my friend and fellow Poet’s Garage member Michelle H. Barnes interviewed children’s author/poet David Elliott and shared his poem, “Dear Orangutan” from his book, In the Wild (Candlewick, 2013). Following the interview, David challenged Michelle’s readers to write a “letter poem;” that is, a poem written like a letter to someone (or something).

Several such poems were submitted, including this one by Yours Truly:

Dear Dad,

I’m having trouble fitting in.
I feel unhappy in my skin.
The kids at school all call me names;
they carry torches bright with flames.
Teachers chase me through the rooms
with pitchforks, clubs, and wooden brooms.
When I say, “Hi,” the parents flee.
It’s almost like they’re scared of me.
Sorry, I don’t mean to whine.

Love,
your son,
Jack Frankenstein

– © 2015, Matt Forrest Esenwine

Well…imagine my surprise when I received an email from fellow writer/blogger Tabatha Yeatts, who informed me that students at her daughter’s middle school had a National Poetry Month project where kids could “respond” to poems that were posted in the halls (my poem being one of them). She shared with me two of the poems she thought were the best, and so – with parental permission – I’m sharing them here!

Dear Jack
by Emily Sologuren, 8th grade
.
Dear Jack,
You’re not the only one who knows that feeling
when everyone sees you as unappealing —
I too went through that, you know
Other kids pointing at me wherever I go
Because I was different with an outlandish plan
When they saw my experiment, they just snickered and ran
Yet I continued my experiment, while also being shunned
And created you, Jack, my wonderful son
So be who you are and don’t be so sad.
With all my love, your scientist Dad
 .
Dear Son
by Emily F., 8th grade
 .
Dear Son,
Don’t let those mean kids get you down,
Don’t let them chase you through the town.
The fact that you don’t look the same,
Serves them no right to call you names.
If you just embrace who you really are,
Then trust me kid, you will go far.
There will be someone who loves your persona,
After all, Shrek found his Fiona.
And if kids make fun, I recommend
That they don’t deserve to be your friend.
So if the times get real bad,
And you’re feeling real sad,
Just remember that you are beautiful no matter what they say,
Because baby, you were born that way.
After all, you are my son, and you are mine.
Your creator, your father, your friend,
Dr. Frankenstein
.

Pretty darned good, I’d say! Wow, these kids have some talent. I’m so honoured and humbled that something I wrote provided inspiration for someone. It is my sincere hope that someone reading these students’ poems will likewise be inspired, and keep the circle intact!

By the way, Poetry Friday is being hosted by Diane Mayr at Random Noodling this week, so make sure you head on over for all the poetry, links and…inspiration, of course!

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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!
PoetsGarage-badgeTo 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!

Crayons, scallops, and truth: What I learned at ‪#‎NESCBWI15

NESCBWI15 logoAnother NE-SCBWI (New England Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators) Conference is in the history books, and as always, it was an exciting, fun, information-packed smorgasbord of opportunity!

One of the biggest benefits of the conference is the networking – agents, editors, and fellow writers all converge on this one location and get to meet, chat, and dine with each other, which is worth the price of admission in and of itself. The varied workshops and high-profile speakers are also huge draws, of course. And this year, I had an additional reason to attend: The Marguerite W. Davol Picture Book Critique Scholarship for pre-published authors!

As I explained in a previous post, I was awarded this honor based on a manuscript I submitted last year, and the judges felt it was strong enough to deserve some special recognition, which was very humbling. I’m so proud of that manuscript!

So as you can see, I had plenty of reasons to want to attend; by its very nature, the conference is immensely educational, but I wanted to share a few choice tidbits of wisdom gleaned from the experience. This list is by no means exhaustive, and even what you read here is a fraction of a fraction of what transpired:


1)
 Working on your craft is the only way to succeed. Beekle
And don’t do it for any other reason than because you’re passionate about it! 2015 Caldecott Award Winner Dan Santat was the Saturday morning Keynote Speaker, and his tremendous talent (and dry wit) kept the audience on the edge of their seats. The author/illustrator also revealed a revelation he had a few years ago, while watching the TV Show, “Mad Men:” one does not need to like a character to like a story; one simply needs to understand the character(s).

2) I have a good voice for middle grade. One editor in attendance mentioned this to me following a quick story synopsis I scribbled down during a workshop session. I’ve written poetry, poetry collections, short stories, and picture books…but never anything long enough to require more than one chapter! I’m going to need to think about that.

3) Scallops are expensive. Well, I kind of knew that already anyway, but that fact became abundantly clear to me Friday night, when a small group of us left the conference center and dined at a nearby Mediterranean restaurant. I order a $13 scallop appetizer and received…two scallops. Two. As in, one…and then just one more. Admittedly, they were quite good – but I’m not sure they were 13-dollars-good.

4) Be True. This was actually the title of author Jo Knowles’ Saturday evening Keynote Speech, and a very moving, inspirational speech it was. Jo related her own story of a young, shy girl who wanted to be a writer, lessons coverwho credited the SCBWI as well as (and even more so) one special teacher with helping her achieve success.

Regarding her first YA novel, Lessons from a Dead Girl, she learned that the book just wasn’t ready until it was true. Until her characters, the story line, everything felt true…the manuscript went nowhere. So one of the most important questions a writer should ask themselves is, “Is it true yet?”

5) Understanding Common Core Standards for English Language Arts is not as hard as it seems. My thanks to fellow NE-SCBWI member Michelle Cusolito for an informative workshop geared towards helping authors doing school visits. Learn more by joining her Facebook group!

6) If you don’t take the crayons out of the box…nothing happens. Australian children’s writer, animal expert, musician, and 2010 SCBWI Member of the Year Christopher Cheng was the Sunday morning Keynote Speaker, and shared this nugget. He’s right – if you want to create something, you have to take action!

That doesn’t just mean one needs to write; it means one needs to be aware. In his view, “everything has a purpose” and it is up to the writer to determine what that purpose is and the extent of its usefulness. He didn’t explicitly state that this mentality translates to the concept of “mindfulness”…but as a writer myself, I’d say it certainly does!

Poetry Panel, from left: Heidi EY Stemple. Leslie Bulion, Richard Michelson, Jane Yolen

7) Book marketing just took a new, creative turn for the better. While chatting with author and fellow New Englander Julie True Kingsley, she told me about a new start-up venture she is involved in: BizzieMe.com. If you are an author and want to bring your book into the digital age via interactive games and video, I encourage you to check it out! A reader scans your book cover into their smartphone or tablet, and can immediately start interacting. Very cool stuff.

8a) Reluctant readers aren’t really “reluctant” – they just haven’t been given books that interest them yet. CrossoverThis is something else that didn’t come as a surprise, really, but it was something important of which to take note. Boys and girls share many interests, and it’s important to not try to pigeonhole boys with our preconceptions of what they will like.

During Newbery Award-winning author Kwame Alexander‘s writing workshop – as well as his Saturday lunchtime speech – he reminded those in attendance to take advantage of opportunities that come your way. “Say YES!” was his takeaway message, and his words on authenticity echoed Chris Cheng’s and Jo Knowles’.

8b) What a difference a year makes! Those were the words uttered by poet and artist Richard Michelson while we were chatting during a book signing. Richard and I were admiring the long line that led to Kwame’s table, and Richard remarked that he had been with Kwame at a signing last year and no one knew who he was…but now thanks to The Crossover, he was the hit of the weekend!

Heidi & Me - spread-mates

Heidi EY Stemple and I, with her poem on the left and mine on the right!

9) If you’re going to a conference that fellow writers will also be attending, bring books with you! I couldn’t believe I left copies of Lullaby & Kisses Sweet, The Crossover, and others at home! After I had arrived, my absent-mindedness dawned on me. Heidi Stemple, with whom I share a spread in Lullaby, knows this.

After a poetry panel discussion with her, Jane Yolen (her mom), Leslie Bulion, and Richard Michelson, we chatted and I signed her copy. I’ll probably have to wait until next year’s conference to see her again and have her sign mine!

10) Monsters are a euphemism for disability. I had never considered this before, but author Tim Weed made an excellent point during his workshop on image systems in middle grade an YA fiction. The creature with the hunch, the creature with the strange face, the creature who can’t speak…all find their origins from the same place.

11) Networking is as important as attending the workshops.

Me, Deb, Janet, Craig (NESCBWI)

From left: Craig Munson, Janet Costa Bates, Yours Truly, and Deb Blake Dempsey

This is not something I learned – it’s something I preach! If you have ever considered attending an SCBWI conference, I highly encourage you to do so. I wouldn’t be at this stage of my career had it not been for networking, saying hi, chatting with people, striking up conversations, listening to what fellow attendees are talking about. Yes, I’ve learned a lot from the workshops – but it was one simple, short, casual conversation that started me on the way towards publication.

Will I see you there next year? The dates are already set for 2016: April 29 – May 1. If there’s another SCBWI conference closer to you, by all means, register! And for more info on where to find local SCBWI chapters or critique groups, log on to http://www.SCBWI.org. Hope to see you at one someday!

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

Poetry Friday: The 2015 Progressive Poem concludes here!

National-Poetry-Month-Logo (2015)
I’m sharing my Poetry Friday post a day early this year, because I’m very happy to once again be part of Irene Latham’s annual Progressive Poem! Each day, a different person has added a line to a poem that has been growing and growing over the course of the month…and it culminates today, here!

2015ProgressivePoemI’ve been excited – and a bit anxious – about the fact that it’s up to me to write that last line. Honestly, there was only one way I felt I could go with it, so hopefully you’ll like it. I’ve been following the poem’s development, from a woman walking along the shoreline, to growing fins and sliding down into the water, to making a discovery, to — well, just read it, and you’ll see!

(I’ve also added a title, which it was lacking, but if anyone prefers something else, feel free to change it!)

Due to popular demand (well, ok…Irene was the only one who asked, but she IS popular), I recorded an audio version of the poem, so you can read along if you’d like:

“Ocean Dreams”
(The 2015 Poetry Friday Progressive Poem)

She lives without a net, walking along the alluvium of the delta.
Shoes swing over her shoulder,
on her bare feet stick jeweled flecks of dark mica.
Hands faster than fish swing at the ends of bare brown arms.
Her hair flows, snows in wild wind
as she digs in the indigo varnished handbag,
pulls out her grandmother’s oval cuffed bracelet,
strokes the turquoise stones,
and steps through the curved doorway.
Tripping on her tail she slips hair first down the slide…splash!
She glides past glossy water hyacinth to shimmer with a school of shad,
listens to the ibises roosting in the trees of the cypress swamp
an echo of Grandmother’s words, still fresh in her windswept memory;
Born from the oyster, expect the pearl. 
Reach for the rainbow reflection on the smallest dewdrop.
The surface glistens, a shadow slips above her head, a paddle dips
she reaches, seizes. She’s electric energy and turquoise eyes.
Lifted high, she gulps strange air – stares clearly into
 Green pirogue, crawfish trap,
startled fisherman with turquoise eyes, twins of her own, riveted on her wrist–
She’s swifter than a dolphin, slipping away,
leaving him only a handful of memories of his own grandmother’s counsel:
Watch for her. You’ll have but one chance to 
determine—to decide.
Garner wisdom from the water and from the pearl of the past.
In a quicksilver flash, an arc of resolution, he leaps
into the shimmering water
where hidden sentries restrain any pursuit
and the bitter taste of impulse rushes into his lungs.
Her flipper flutters his weathered toes – Pearl’s signal –
Stop struggling. The Sentinels will escort you
He stills, closes his eyes,
takes an uncharacteristic breath of…water!
Released, he swims, chasing the glimmer of the bracelet
Gran gave the daughter who reveled in waves.
Straining for fading incandescence, flecks of silver,
his eyes and hands clasp cold silt,
flakes of sharp shale seething through fingers – crimson palms stinging.
A sea change ripples his shuddering back.
With a force summoned from the depths, her charged turquoise eyes unsuffer his heart
And holding out her hand to him, she knows. He knows. She speaks,
as his hand curls ’round her bracelet-clad wrist,
“Papa, just a little longer in the pool! One more time down the slide! Please!”
He nods; she won’t be his little mermaid much longer.

So there you go – a wrap-up to our heroine’s whirlwind adventure! You can see how the 2015 Progressive Poem progressed from Day One at the following locations:

1 Jone at Check it Out
2 Joy at Poetry for Kids Joy
3 Heidi at My Juicy Little Universe
4 Laura at Writing the World for Kids
5 Charles at Poetry Time Blog
6 Ramona at Pleasures from the Page
7 Catherine at Catherine Johnson
8 Irene at Live Your Poem
9 Mary Lee at Poetrepository
10 Michelle at Today’s Little Ditty
11 Kim at Flukeprints
12 Margaret at Reflections on the Teche
13 Doraine at DoriReads
14 Renee at No Water River
15 Robyn at Life on the Deckle Edge
16 Ruth at There is No Such Thing as a Godforsaken Town
17 Buffy at Buffy’s Blog
18 Sheila at Sheila Renfro
19 Linda at Teacher Dance
20 Penny at A Penny and her Jots
21 Tara at A Teaching Life
22 Pat at Writer on a Horse
23 Tamera at The Writer’s Whimsy
24 Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect
25 Tabatha at The Opposite of indifference
26 Brian at Walk the Walk
27 Jan at Bookseedstudio
28 Amy at The Poem Farm
29 Donna at Mainely Write
30 Matt at Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme

There’s so much going on today!  I’m very honored that Jama Rattigan has conferred upon me and fellow writer Greg Pincus the title of HotTEA…and you can learn more about what that means at her blog, Jama’s Alphabet Soup! (I’ve never been a HotTEA before – or a hottie, or even haughty – so this is all quite new to me) I also share an original haiku about a specific type of tea…can you figure out which one?
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By the way, today is Poem in Your Pocket Day – AND Poetry Friday is at Mary Lee Hahn’s A Year of Reading this week, so you’ll find plenty of poetry there, starting bright & early Friday morning!
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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!
PoetsGarage-badgeTo 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!

National Poetry Month: “Poetry…Cubed!” poems & winners!

What a weekend! I spent three days in Springfield, Massachusetts with hundreds of fellow children’s writers and illustrators at the annual New England SCBWI conference – and with folks like Jane Yolen, Kwame Alexander, Jo Knowles, and Dan Santat in attendance it could not have been more inspiring or exciting. (I’ll be sharing details next Tue., when I post my annual list of the Top Things I Learned at the NESCBWI Conference!)

National-Poetry-Month-Logo (2015)

Right now, I need to focus on poetry! In just a few days, National Poetry Month 2015 will be but a memory…but first I need to thank all the folks who emailed me their poems for my National Poetry Month challenge…

Poetry Cubed logoIf you’ve ever watched The Food Network, you’re probably familiar with the show, “Chopped!

Four chefs battle each other by trying to create the best dishes they can, using specific (an often incongruous) ingredients given to them in a special basket. The dishes are critiqued by a panel of judges and after three elimination rounds, the last chef standing claims victory.

So for this contest, I took the basic premise of the TV show and applied it to poetry! I call it “Poetry…Cubed!” Instead of food, I gave you the following three “ingredients” for poems:

theatre seat (Katie)Flowers & BeeMonster Truck

Here’s what our challengers needed to do:

  • Use the 3 images (“cubed,” get it??) as inspiration to write a poem.
  • The poem could be any form, any number of lines, rhyming or not.
  • The only hitch was that there needed to be some sort of reference to all three images in the poem – either via concrete imagery or something more abstract.
  • I then asked readers to email me their poems, and out of all the submissions, two lucky writers would be chosen at random to receive their choice of the brand-new Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations (Pomelo Books) or the self-help book Psychoetry: Lessons in Poetic Parenting by Brian P. Wohlmuth, whom I interviewed earlier this month.

PFAC-front-cover-Nov-30-WEB-jpeg-705x1030Brian-Psychoetry cover

I was glad to see such a positive response…whenever a new challenge comes along, you never know what kind of reaction you’ll get! Lots of poems came in from seasoned writers as well as new folks – and what diverse paths they took!

Here, then, in no particular order, are the poems:

Honeycube

hot wheels of
yellow nectar

bee rumbles
rumblehums
along
a long low road

bee blazes a trail
towards one red center
in the distance

bee lights
lights up
lights upon it

tiny monster
stalking pollen
in the theater
of green

– © Heidi Mordhorst 2015, all rights reserved

 

Daddy’s Little Girl

It’s our first date,
He’ll just be bait!
My dad will eat him on a whim!
The movie show,
Is where we’ll go.
My dad will tear him limb from limb!
A monster truck?
It’s just my luck!
My dad, his sails is gonna trim!
He’s at the door,
I’m feeling poor!
My dad is looking pretty grim!
He has flowers
For more powers!
My dad is going to murder him!
The birds and bees –
We spoke of these.
My dad expects proper and prim!

– Donna JT Smith ©2015, all rights reserved

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Opening Night

The lights dim,
folding chairs creak.
Someone clears his throat.
Someone shuffles a program.
Someone shushes her child.

Anticipating actors
pace backstage.
The first booming sound
from the orchestra,
deep and ominous,
wakes up my soul
like a monster truck
riding muddy trails
dragging me along.

Just when my senses catch up,
silence again.
Thick red curtain becomes
a newly blossoming flower
fluttering under a bee’s wings.

I am one with the stage,
feeling, seeing, hearing
transported
transformed,
inspired.

– Margaret Simon

 

haiku

garden matinee–
honeybees hotwheel it
to the best seats
 .
– © 2015, Michelle Heidenrich Barnes

.

Fire

Always,
when he’d enter a theater
he’d notice, count the seats
in each row. Check for a center aisle.
15 with a center aisle, 26 without.
More than that he’d check the exits
one door for each three rows.
He knew the hazards
thought of the ladies
wearing flowered dresses
not attracting the bees.

He thought of the fire trucks rolling
like big monsters
the tires slick with rain
gushing down the gutters.

The panic bars locked
no one could exit
or enter and the fear
racing through
the dancers
who knew
the illegality
of yelling
FIRE

Ah, the Rhythm Club,
the Iroquois Theatre,
The Coconut Grove
changed so many lives
so many fire regulations
and broke the hearts
of so many families.

– Joy Acey

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Free the Poetry

I chopped and chopped to my dismay.
I sliced and diced some more.
When regal words had failed me, I knelt down to the floor.
On bended knee, said gallantly,
“Art thou, to be, or not to be?”
This is one wacky recipe!
A theatre with no emcee? A flower with a honey bee? A monster truck upon debris?
Come on. Are you kidding me?
With majestic indignation, I stood and solemnly swore,
a decree to free the poetry!
“In all the land, from shore to shore, poetry shall be cubed…no more!”

– Angie Karcher

.

Minnesota, Theater of Seasons

April is here

The snow has melted

Soon the flowers

And a bee or two

Will appear

In the mean time

I’ll need to fill

A monster truck

With frozen dog turds

Before they thaw

And smear
.

Oh Minnesota, theater of seasons

How I love you when the snow is gone

But when you’re still freezing

– Kimmy Alan

.

The Play is On

All the world’s a stage, it’s said
And it’s clear the play is on
Noon turns night in a single thread
Mourning doves coo at dawn

Spiders weave their flimsy traps
The heron stalks the frog
Rivers wind through muddy flats
Downstream floats the log

Myriad flowers bloom each spring
Armies of bees partake
Hoot owls hoot and bluebirds sing
As sure as aspens quake

Some will laugh and love and work
And teach their children well
Some will lie and steal and shirk
Their mortal souls to sell

Thus each role on the stage of life
Be it hero, monster, or pawn
May bring joy or may bring strife
And the play just trucks along

– Karen Eastlund, April 2015

.

Resistance

This early adolescent spring,
this theater of boys,
shows one grown tall, grabs one more fling
with his old friends, his toys.

He plays and plays, barooms around,
hoping no one hears the sound.
The only other life around
are buzzing bees, like thoughts he found
that reach into the boy’s ears.
He sits and listens to his fears
that all the future coming days
won’t be like all the grown ups praise.

He only wants his monster truck,
a track of dirt, a time to play,
the growing up, another day

– Linda Baie © All Rights Reserved

.

Feel of Childhood

Look at my new Hot Wheels go
Through fields of flowers
Or over the snow

There’s nothing that can slow me down
I’m a busy bee
Barely touch the ground

Remember that wonder, remember that thrill
Or go to the theatre
and experience it still

– Cara Eisenberg

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And the winners are…by a completely impartial, totally random, utterly nondiscriminatory drawing…

Michelle and Karen!!

Congratulations to both of you! Just leave me a comment here or email me and let me know which of the two books you’d like to have, and I’ll send it on its way. (First come, first served – I only have one copy of Psychoetry.) Many thanks to everyone for their submissions – I was quite impressed – and I may do it again next month, with three new photos!

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2015ProgressivePoemIrene Latham’s annual Progressive Poem is almost full-grown! Different writers have been adding new lines each day, adding to the epic journey our heroine is on, and today Amy at The Poem Farm will add the next-to-next-to-last line. Tomorrow, Donna at Mainely Write has her turn, then on April 30, Yours Truly will conclude the adventure with the final line. I’m still a bit nervous about that – but I’m very much looking forward to it!

You can see how the 2015 Progressive Poem has grown at the following blog spots:


1 Jone at Check it Out
2 Joy at Poetry for Kids Joy
3 Heidi at My Juicy Little Universe
4 Laura at Writing the World for Kids
5 Charles at Poetry Time Blog
6 Ramona at Pleasures from the Page
7 Catherine at Catherine Johnson
8 Irene at Live Your Poem
9 Mary Lee at Poetrepository
10 Michelle at Today’s Little Ditty
11 Kim at Flukeprints
12 Margaret at Reflections on the Teche
13 Doraine at DoriReads
14 Renee at No Water River
15 Robyn at Life on the Deckle Edge
16 Ruth at There is No Such Thing as a Godforsaken Town
17 Buffy at Buffy’s Blog
18 Sheila at Sheila Renfro
19 Linda at Teacher Dance
20 Penny at A Penny and her Jots
21 Tara at A Teaching Life
22 Pat at Writer on a Horse
23 Tamera at The Writer’s Whimsy
24 Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect
25 Tabatha at The Opposite of indifference
26 Brian at Walk the Walk
27 Jan at Bookseedstudio
28 Amy at The Poem Farm
29 Donna at Mainely Write
30 Matt at Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme

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National-Poetry-Month-Logo (2015)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!
PoetsGarage-badgeTo 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!

National Poetry Month: Interview with Margarita Engle

National-Poetry-Month-Logo (2015)

I’m very excited to share another interview today – not just because it’s National Poetry Month, but because it’s with a woman whose writing I truly admire: Margarita Engle.

MargaritaA Cuban-American living in central California, Margarita was the winner of the very first Newbery Honor awarded to a Latino. Her award-winning young adult novels in verse include The Surrender Tree, The Poet Slave of Cuba, and The Lightning Dreamer, winner of the prestigious PEN USA Award.

I first came to learn of Margarita’s work about 5 years ago, when I stumbled upon her historical novel-in-verse, Hurricane Dancers, about the first Caribbean pirate shipwreck. It was the first novel-in-verse I ever read, and I was captivated by the way she used poems from the perspective of each character to move the story.

I’m honored to have Margarita join me today:

First of all, thank you for taking the time for this interview, Margarita – you’re so busy, I can’t imagine how you find any time to write! Three books published in just the past 2 months with more on the way is rather prolific! Seriously, how do you find the time??

Thank you for the invitation to explain that when three picture books are released within a few weeks of each other, it doesn’t mean they were written at the same time. Actually, they were started years apart, but some took longer to be accepted, edited, and illustrated. Release dates for Orangutanka, Drum Dream Girl, and The Sky Painter just happened to coincide, after following widely divergent publishing pathways! As far as finding the time to write, I try to stick to a calm, quiet routine of scribbling a few pages each day.

Well, certainly, publishing is an up-and-down, stop-and-go kind of industry – a book you write today might get picked up and released next year, while one you wrote 5 years ago may still in production! But finding the time to write is only part of the battle…how do you find your topics? Where does your inspiration come from, and how do you know if a potential story idea has what it takes to be publishable?

My historical verse novel topics generally emerge from a combination of reading, travel and daydreaming. Picture books are a bit different. They usually don’t require years of research. Orangutanka, for instance, was already writing itself in my mind even while I was standing in the rain forest, watching wild orangutans at a refuge in Borneo. Drum Dream Girl just danced right into my head after I read about Millo (Castro Zaldarriaga, see below) in a book by her sister.

The Sky Painter was more like a verse novel. I’m a botanist, agronomist, and birdwatcher, so I love writing about great Latino naturalists who have been forgotten by history. However, this one required a lot of research, and was difficult to find a publisher willing to accept a book about someone who was not already “famous enough.”

The problem with the industry’s general prejudice against biographies of people who aren’t famous is that women and minorities were left out of history books. If their accomplishments are ever going to be recognized, we have to start telling their stories now.

OrangutankaDD GirlSky Painter

The follow-up question then has to be, how do you decide what form the story should take – picture book, verse novel, picture book-in-verse, etc.?

Thankfully, that is rarely a struggle. It’s actually one of the truly satisfying stages in the process. I love to experiment, try it this way, try it that way, and ultimately allow the characters to decide. Their voices and the events in their lives offer a certain rhythm. When it feels natural, I proceed.

I need to ask a question that I think only fellow writers will truly understand: do you feel that winning the Newbery helped you gain more confidence in your writing…or did it have the opposite effect, by making you feel the pressure to maintain that level of writing? (If it was me, I think I’d be so nervous about writing my next book I’d never get it done!)

It’s a mixture.  I alternate between days of confidence and months of timidity. The truth is I write best when I’m convinced that my work is unpublishable, and no one will ever read or judge it.  That gives me complete freedom to experiment!

Good point. Nothing is more freeing than knowing you have nothing to lose.

We write well when we don’t worry about being judged. My creative writing professor, Tomás Rivera, told me to write in the moment, for myself, rather than thinking ahead toward publication, something that comes much later, if at all.

Speaking of publication, you’ve become well-known for your verse novels – Hurricane Dancers was the first of that genre I’d ever read, and I was blow away! – but you also apply that format to some of your picture books. Hurricane dancersHow do you go about finding those nuggets of gold you need to craft the individual poems, in order to tell the larger story?

Thank you! Hurricane Dancers is my most complex verse novel. For a simple picture book made of linked poems, I’m generally writing a biographical story. Each poem is a different stage in the character’s life. I don’t know any other way to carry him/her gracefully through time, without adding a lot of clunky facts and figures that I’d rather omit.

Orangutanka is a bit more lighthearted than some of your other books. What was your process for deciding its tone and structure?

I actually love lighthearted picture books, but most of them never find publishers. I have drawers filled with collections of poems on cheerful themes, but in the U.S., there seems to be an expectation that all my work has to be serious. (Tiny Rabbit’s Big Wish is doing very well in Japan – maybe I should move!)

Orangutanka came out in the form of tanka because it’s the form I often use as a travel diary. Visiting a wildlife refuge in Borneo was so profoundly moving, I needed a sensitive form, but also playful, like young orangutans.

Your other new book that just came out is Drum Dream Girl, a biographical picture book about a real-life Chinese-African-Cuban girl, Millo Castro Zaldarriaga, who wanted to be a drummer at a time when that sot of thing was frowned upon. How is writing this type of book different from writing a verse novel? (Some people would say shorter means it’s easier – but anyone who writes for a living will tell you shorter is often much harder!)

Drum Dream Girl is more of an “inspired by” story than a true biography. I didn’t want to load it with facts and figures. I just wanted to evoke the spirit of Millo’s courage, as a ten-year-old girl defying Cuba’s taboo against female drummers. I wanted to avoid discussing the taboo itself in any detail, because it’s part of an extremely complex West African religious tradition that would be confusing for young children.

Many of my picture book manuscripts are extremely short, but sometimes an editor asks me to add detail, and then they have to grow. Fortunately, this one stayed in its original form, leaving plenty of room for Rafael López’ spectacular artwork!

Surrender TreeSilver peopleLightning DreamerPoet Slave

What would you say is the most important consideration a writer needs to make when crafting a verse novel, as opposed to another genre?

The heart is the most important consideration. The heart of the story, the heart of each poem, the heart of each character. I love the verse novel format because like a haiku, it has room for universal emotions, without all the clutter of too many facts and figures. However, I do need to research my subject thoroughly. I need to know those facts and figures, and then I need to choose which ones are truly important to me. The rest can be left out completely, or distilled into a brief prose historical note at the end.

Please tell us about your upcoming new book, The Sky Painter: Louis Fuertes, Bird Artist. What drew you to this particular person?

I love writing about great Latinos who have been forgotten by history, and I love writing about people who are independent thinkers, willing to try something new. Fuertes pioneered the painting of living birds in flight, instead of killing them like Audubon. I think that’s a creative approach that will inspire children! Just because someone is taught to do something destructive, that doesn’t mean he/she can’t figure out a better way to accomplish the same goal.

Ornithologists consider Fuertes to be the best bird artist who ever lived, and he was also a great conservationist at a time when women still wore whole birds on their heads – hats were not just ornamented with feathers, entire specimens of rare and endangered species could be spotted on hats in fashion shows! He talked to women’s clubs, asking them to use ribbons or other decorations, instead of dead birds. It sounds absurd now, but that was the reality of the time. It makes me ask myself: what are we doing now that will seem horrifying in a few decades? How can we change?

Finally, I’d love to know more about your upcoming childhood memoir in verse, Enchanted Air. How different was writing an autobiography from writing the biography of someone else, and how does a writer find the objectivity needed to determine what works and what doesn’t?

Enchanted AirEnchanted Air is subtitled Two Cultures, Two Wings. It’s the story of my childhood summers in Cuba, where I bonded with my mother’s extended family, and fell in love with tropical nature.

It’s also the story of the Cold War, and the loss of travel rights. I know the Missile Crisis affected every child of my generation, but it affected Cuban-Americans in a unique way. Writing this book was excruciatingly painful. I won’t be able to read certain parts out loud without crying. I don’t claim to be objective about something so personal and emotional.

By the way, are there any subjects or even genres you haven’t tackled yet, that you would like to?

That’s a long list! My one great unfulfilled wish is a bilingual picture book. I keep writing them, but none are ever accepted. I also wrote a magic realistic middle grade book that has not found a publisher, but I enjoyed experimenting with fantasy. I’m also enjoying experimenting with a historical verse novel set in my home state of California. I would love to try a collection of natural history poems. I haven’t yet tackled the subject of contemporary Cuba.

Well, thank you so much, Margarita! I appreciate you taking the time to chat.

For more info on any of Margarita’s books, check out her website HERE or simply click any of the book covers above!

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Poetry Cubed logoBy the way, you have one week left to send me your “Poetry…Cubed!” entries for a chance to win one of two books! Last week I shared a new poetry challenge…and I’m looking forward to seeing what you can come up with! It’s my take on the Food Network show, “Chopped!” – but instead of using surprise ingredients from a basket to create a meal, you need to use three photo prompts to create ONE fantastic poem!

(Don’t worry, you won’t be graded…winners will be chosen at random. Get all the details HERE!)

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By the way, Irene Latham’s annual Progressive Poem is…well, progressing – very nicely! A different writer adds a line each day, and today Tara at A Teaching Life adds her touch to the adventure. On April 30, we’ll see where it ends when Yours Truly caps it off with the final line.

You can follow the 2015 Progressive Poem at the following blog spots:

2015ProgressivePoem1 Jone at Check it Out
2 Joy at Poetry for Kids Joy
3 Heidi at My Juicy Little Universe
4 Laura at Writing the World for Kids
5 Charles at Poetry Time Blog
6 Ramona at Pleasures from the Page
7 Catherine at Catherine Johnson
8 Irene at Live Your Poem
9 Mary Lee at Poetrepository
10 Michelle at Today’s Little Ditty
11 Kim at Flukeprints
12 Margaret at Reflections on the Teche
13 Doraine at DoriReads
14 Renee at No Water River
15 Robyn at Life on the Deckle Edge
16 Ruth at There is No Such Thing as a Godforsaken Town
17 Buffy at Buffy’s Blog
18 Sheila at Sheila Renfro
19 Linda at Teacher Dance
20 Penny at A Penny and her Jots
21 Tara at A Teaching Life
22 Pat at Writer on a Horse
23 Tamera at The Writer’s Whimsy
24 Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect
25 Tabatha at The Opposite of indifference
26 Brian at Walk the Walk
27 Jan at Bookseedstudio
28 Amy at The Poem Farm
29 Donna at Mainely Write
30 Matt at Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme

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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!
PoetsGarage-badgeTo 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!

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