Oh, what one can accomplish when the kids actually behave

I want to take a moment and thank my two young children for whatever success I may have down the road with my writing career.

Granted, whatever success I may enjoy would probably have come sooner had I not had to keep stopping to tell the 6-year-old to stop running through the house half-naked while playing with the TV remote…and it might have come sooner still had I not had to tell the 3-year-old 67 times to stop pulling her clean clothes out of the dresser and throwing them all over her room and just take a nap, for the love of Pete.

But still, I would have no success at all without those two little devils angels because they – and their older siblings – are the reasons I write for children in the first place. Being a stay-at-home dad, I may barely have a career as it is…but I’d have no career whatsoever without them.

And no one to go sledding with, either.

“You got yourself down there, you can get yourself back up!”

So today, I just wanted to give thanks for the inspiration, love, and exhaustion that my kids provide me. For the past several months, I’ve had a difficult time getting any significant writing done; the 3-year-old is rarely taking naps now, so my work time is severely diminished, and now that she has been waking up at 2 or 3am every other night, I’m only getting 4-5 hours of sleep at night if I’m lucky.

But today, for some reason, went differently.

I don’t know if it was the fact we had our first real snowfall of the season (the 3-year-old spent a good hour outside with me in the morning before I’d even had breakfast), but for some reason she was exceedingly helpful today. And as it turned out, today was THE day I needed her to help me out.

Somehow, I managed to get some commercial television voicework recorded and sent off to an agency in Baltimore with whom I work on a regular basis…I wrote two boyds logoversions of a poem for an upcoming anthology due out in the next few years…made final revisions to the text of my upcoming debut picture book, Flashlight Night (Boyd’s Mills Press, Fall 2017)…began work on another new poem for another project…AND managed to shovel the property, twice!

Oh, and I wrote a blog post.😉

And once the 6-year-old came home from school, I was even able to clip enough evergreens from around the property to fill our house’s four large window boxes, and start getting more greens together for our wreaths.

Granted, I got almost no housework done – hey, something’s gotta give, right? – but days like this are few and far-between lately, so I needed to try to make the most of it.

And if I know my 3-year-old daughter, I’ll be spending most of tomorrow doing laundry, dishes, and vacuuming. And picking up clean clothes off the floor. After all, I can’t expect her to give me two of these kinds of days in a row.

But the snow is still on the ground, so anything’s possible.

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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!
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Poetry Friday: “The Best of Today’s Little Ditty!”

If you have spent any amount of time enjoying Poetry Friday, you have probably poetryfridaybutton-fulllcome across the blog of my friend and fellow writer, Michelle H. Barnes, Today’s Little Ditty. What started out as a forum to share her work soon turned into a showcase of interviews, repository of writing advice, and a community of folks sharing their own work.

And today, it becomes a book!

I’m very happy to announce the publication of Michelle’s The Best of Today’s Little Ditty, 2014-2015 – a collection of 75 poems by 55 different folks who have visited her site and contributed poetry over the past 2 years.

I encourage you to visit her website today and find out more about the book and how to get a copy! And in the meantime, I’ll share one of my poems you’ll find inside…this one from a challenge from the inimitable Lee Bennett Hopkins to write a poem about a formative moment in my younger life:

…I write her name in my notebook.

I’m not sure why.
What is it about her eyes,
her lips,
that makes me think
she’s smiling at me
even when she’s turned away?
I write her name in my notebook.
I’m not sure why.
What is it about violets and – is that vanilla? –
that make a girl smell so nice?
I don’t even like vanilla, but still…
I write her name in my notebook.
I’m not sure why.
Why do I crane my neck to watch
as she walks away, yet hide
my face
when she sees me
watching?
What would she say,
what would she do,
if only she knew…

– © 2015 Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved

(And by the way, HUGE congratulations to Lee for being the newest inductee into the Florida Artists’ Hall of Fame! This was just announced yesterday, and all of us in the children’s poetry community are thrilled!)

Congratulations again, Michelle…on the book, of course, as well as on your blog’s huge success! And speaking of poetry blogs, please stop by Brenda Davis Harsham’s little home on the web, Friendly Fairy Tales, for today’s complete Poetry Friday roundup!

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

Poetry Friday: a poem you’ll never read in “One Minute Till Bedtime”

One Minute coverKenn Nesbitt’s new children’s poetry anthology, One Minute Till Bedtime (Little, Brown for Young Readers), is officially out, and I am so excited to be part of such a beautiful, well-received book! (I’ll be signing copies at Books-A-Million in Concord, New Hampshire, tomorrow from 1-3pm, so please stop by if you’re in the area!)

Now, I’ve already told you about the book in previous posts, but today I wanted to share a poem that’s NOT in the book…huh??

You see, when Kenn asked me to contribute a 60-second(ish)-long poem for the book, I had a couple of options: I could write a brand-new poem or two – or send in a couple of poems I had already written but never published. So I did both!

The poem that was selected for inclusion, “A Visit to the Forest,” I had written a few years ago, but never knew what to do with…so I was very happy to learn it was going to find a home within the pages of One Minute Till Bedtime.

However, I also wrote a poem about books and bedtime specifically for the book – which was not selected. So…what to do? I figured I’d share it here, so that you can at least read it while we’re all celebrating the release of the book that it never made it into! Hope you like it…

One More Book

One more book
……….is all I want.
Can you read me one more book?

It won’t take long,
……….I promise.
Please?
I’ll find a short one…
……….let me look!

I don’t want
……….a glass of water.
I don’t need
……….to try to pee.

I won’t be loud
……….or clown around
if you’ll read one more book to me.

I know I need to go to sleep.
I know you’re tired.

……….I am, too.

But one more book is all I’m asking.
Is that something we can do?

You’ve only read
……….nine books so far
and see how little time it took?

So can you read –
please, oh please –

can you read me

……….one
………………..more
…………………………book?
.
© 2016, Matt F. Esenwine, all rights reserved

For more poetry, please head on over to Laura Purdie Salas’ blog, Writing the World for Kids, where she is hosting today’s complete Poetry Friday roundup!

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

Poetry Friday: “One Minute Till Bedtime” countdown!

One Minute coverAs you may have read in previous posts, I’m thrilled to be a part of Kenn Nesbitt’s new children’s poetry anthology, One Minute Till Bedtime (Little, Brown for Young Readers), which hits bookshelves a mere THREE DAYS from now, this Monday, Nov. 1. (The following week, I’ll be holding a couple of signings at local bookstores in my home state of New Hampshire, so please check out my Facebook page for the Event details!)

The book is comprised of short, 60-second(ish) long poems for kids – and parents, too, of course! – to add some poetry to the end of their day, after the kids have been read to and are tucked in bed. Additionally, the illustrations by New York Times illustrator Christoph Niemann are simultaneously dreamlike yet grounded, whimsical yet introspective.

I’m stunned, honestly, to find myself sharing anthology pages with folks like Kenn, J. Patrick Lewis, Jane Yolen, Lee Bennett Hopkins, Nikki Grimes, Charles Ghigna, David Harrison, Jack Prelutsky, Lemony Snicket, Margarita Engle, Marilyn Singer, and over 100 others. So I hope you enjoy my little contribution:

matt-page
(click to enlarge)

For more poetry links and fun – and a few other samples from inside covers of One Minute Till Bedtime – please visit Linda Baie at Teacher Dance for today’s complete Poetry Friday roundup!

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

The most important thing you can do to understand your characters, your scripts, and your neighbors better – and why it’s becoming harder and harder

What would you say if I told you the things you enjoy the most are keeping you from understanding your world?

It may sound odd or far-fetched, but it’s true. Thanks to social media, we are becoming more and more close-minded, but this is not simply my opinion. This is actually the way social media works, and it’s preventing more and more of us from experiencing empathy, something we all need to be able to function as voice artists, writers…and human beings.

The fact that we are doing this to ourselves may surprise you.

Empathy: what it is and why it’s important

id-10044279-sep-coupleMost dictionaries define “empathy” as not just understanding, but identifying with the feelings or thoughts of others. Being able to relate to others’ concerns, experiences, and attitudes broadens our own understandings and helps us to respect those who do not share or own opinions.

Unfortunately, a quick look at the comments section on any random Facebook post often reveals how little respect there is for others. There may be many reasons for this lack of respect, but one reason is an inability among many to care to understand another point of view; a lack of empathy.

And unwittingly, you, yourself are exacerbating this.

Algorithms and the shrinking of your world

Before we get to how empathy can help in your writing or voiceover career, we need to address how it affects personal relationships – and that starts with social media.

In the pre-internet days, we relied on the real world for our information: not just newspapers or tv and radio, but actual interactions with fellow humans who may or may not have shared our beliefs. We would discuss, read, learn from a variety of sources.

These days, the internet has opened a world of differing viewpoints, but is, ironically, closing us off to all viewpoints except our own.

ad-spaceHow?

Algorithms.

You see, every time you search Google, read a Facebook headline, or click an ad, you are telling someone what you like and what you don’t like. In return, the social media sites do their best to tailor your experience to the things they think interest you.

For example, if you see “chocolate chips” trending on Facebook and click to see the stories, Facebook deduces you are interested in chocolate chips. If you only scan the posts without clicking a story, your interest in chocolate chips may be dismissed, but if you click a story, Facebook now assumes you are even more interested in chocolate chips than it had thought.

So don’t be surprised if you see an ad for chocolate chips pop up in your newsfeed the next day!

Same with Google; if you check out a couple of recipes on Betty Crocker’s website, you might soon find cooking ads sprinkled throughout the sites you visit.

Now, while a chocolate chip addiction may not be cause for alarm, things get really problematic, really quickly…

Democrat, Republican, or Independent? Let’s ask Facebook!

Here’s a test: with which political affiliation do you most identify? If you’d like to find out what Facebook thinks, do this:

  • Open up Facebook, and on the far-right drop-down menu (to the right of the padlock icon), click “Settings.”
  • On the far left of the screen, click “Ads,”
  • Where it reads “Ads based on my preferences,” click “Edit” and then “Visit Ad Preferences.”
  • Under “Interests,” click on”Lifestyle and culture.” From there, you should see a box titled “US politics” – and if you have not already declared a political affiliation, Facebook has made a guess as to what it thinks you are!

How does it do this?? By using algorithms based on the sites you visit and other Facebook pages you like. For instance, if a person “Likes” the MoveOn.org Facebook page, Facebook will infer that you are a liberal; if you follow Glenn Beck, Facebook assumes you are conservative.

Obviously, there’s much more to it than that, but you get the idea. The more you tell social media what you like, the more of what you like social media will give you.

And therein lies the big, big  problem.

Where does all this lead?

What it boils down to is all of us living in our own little worlds of singular thought. The more we profess our disdain for Trump, the more pro-Hillary content we are fed; the more we dislike Obamacare, the more conservative content is provided.

The more we read about the Kardashians, the more news about the Kardashians we’re going to get. Oy.

id-100107463-man-screaming-2It is this narrowing and narrowing of our opinions and worldview that is not only harming our capacity for empathy, but our ability to be decent to each other and debate issues politely and respectfully. Being spoon-fed our daily news, we lose sight of all the other opinions out there and the fact that there are, indeed, living, breathing humans on the other end of those opinions.

How empathy comes into play

Empathy, as stated earlier, is not just understanding another’s feelings or opinions, but actually identifying with them, whether or not we agree with them.

Whether it’s the guy who cut you off in traffic, the woman who was too loud on her cellphone, or the person who holds opposing political views to yours, practicing empathy not only helps us interact with others civilly; it reminds us that we are all human and all imperfect.

For all the talk lately of ‘tolerance,’ a little empathy could go a long way…after all, tolerance without understanding has no foundation on which to stand.

A Trump supporter may not be able to understand how a person can vote for Hillary without making a concerted effort to put him/herself in a Hillary supporter’s shoes, looking past the political posturing to see the human being who is running and to understand why she is running.

Likewise, a Hillary supporter may not understand how a person can vote for a candidate like Trump until he or she takes the time to listen closely to a Trump supporter and puts him/herself where the Trump supporter is, recognizing and identifying with the Trump supporter’s experiences and values.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying that Trump supporters or Hillary supporters are right or wrong, I’m not saying one is better than the other. That’s a decision individuals have to make, and this blog is not a political forum.

What I am saying, however, is that when we have a steady stream of news content delivered to us based on the ideas, opinions, and beliefs we already hold, the less we are exposed to other viewpoints.

Then, when we do happen to come across an article, comment, or post that goes against our tightly-held opinions, we are so taken aback that we cannot (or will not) take the time to try to consider why that person with the different opinion ever dared form it in the first place.

What does all this mean for writers and voice artists?

If you are a voice artist narrating a script or performing a character, it is imperative that you understand who you are and why you are saying what you are saying.

You don’t have to be a ‘character’ in the sense of a 19th-century British soldier or school lunch lady, either – even a narrator is, at heart, a character. To the listener, the narrator is the voice of reason, of reassurance, of solution. So take the time to think about this, wrap your head around the script, and try to identify with the speaker – as well as the person being spoken to.

Who are you? Why are you speaking these words? Who is hearing them? What might they think when they hear your words? And what is most important to the person to whom you are speaking?

If you are a writer, ask these same questions of your characters. And really, really, try to answer them honestly, from your character’s point of view.

I know of some authors who will stop themselves in the middle of a manuscript and throw one of their characters into a completely unrelated plot, then write a short story around that, for the sole purpose of getting to know their character better.

A lot of work, yes, but if it helps to create a better understanding, then it’s time well spent.

And come to think of it…asking yourself these questions each time an opposing opinion comes along might not be a bad idea, either. What do you think?

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

Children’s poetry writing status report: full steam ahead!

One Minute coverWe are less then one month away from publication!

I’m so thrilled to be a part of Kenn Nesbitt’s new children’s poetry anthology, One Minute Till Bedtime (Little, Brown for Young Readers, 2016), which officially hits stores Nov. 1. The following week, I’ll be holding a couple of signings at local bookstores in my home state of New Hampshire, so if you’re in the area, I hope you’ll stop by! (Keep following this blog for more details)

The book is comprised of short, 60-second(ish) long poems for kids – a great way to encourage them to read poetry, of course, but also a nice, accessible way for parents to add in some poetry at the end of a day, after the kids have been read to and are tucked in bed.

As I have mentioned here before, I’ve been writing forever but only became serious about being published in children’s literature a mere 6 years ago…so the fact that I have already found myself sharing anthology pages with folks like J. Patrick Lewis, Jane Yolen, Nikki Grimes, Charles Ghigna, David Harrison, Jack Prelutsky, and so many more makes my head spin.

boyds logoI’ll also have another poem in an upcoming new Lee Bennett Hopkins anthology; another in a high-profile anthology due out in 2018; two poems in “Highlights for Kids” magazine; and three in a soon-to-be-published anthology coming out this fall, courtesy of poet/blogger Michelle H. Barnes.

In addition, my two debut picture books – Flashlight Night (Boyd’s Mills PressPow logo), illustrated by Fred Koehler, and Don’t Ask a Dinosaur (Pow! Kids Books), co-authored with my friend and critique group partner, Deb Bruss – are both scheduled for release in Fall 2017.

So thank you for being a part of all this…I couldn’t have done any of this without social media, and that means I couldn’t have done it without YOU. Blog readers, poetry fans, fellow writers, and Facebook/Twitter followers…whether you realize it or not, your support has helped me grow, improve, and become published.

Please know how much I appreciate it! I hope you’ll remain with me for all the fun stuff coming soon in the months and years to follow. Full steam ahead!!

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

 

Poetry Friday: a dog-gone septercet challenge

poetryfridaybutton-fulllWay back at the beginning of the month, Jane Yolen visited the blog of my friend and fellow poet/blogger Michelle H. Barnes, Today’s Little Ditty to discuss her writing, her inspiration, and a poetic form she created called the septercet.

A septercet is a poem consisting of any number of 3-line stanzas (or tercets, as we call them), each with 7 syllables (hence, the “sept” in septercet). Michelle’s blog readers were challenged to write their own septercets, and they met the challenge head-on…submitting FIFTY different poems in one month!

Now, just because each line is seven syllables doesn’t mean a nice rhythm cannot be achieved. And just because it doesn’t need to rhyme doesn’t mean I was going to let the opportunity for an even harder challenge slip by! Here’s what I came up with:

Home

Give me room to be your friend;
give me space to stretch and run,
a place to sleep, time to mend.

Yes, I owe so much to you.
I am not ungrateful, no –
though I’m tired, and starving, too.

My whole world has been a cage,
cold and cramped. I should not ask
for anything, at my age,

nor should I expect concern,
love, or care – yet, here I am,
a new home, rules, words to learn.

Neither knows how this will end,
but I am loyal. Trust me, please.
Give me time; I’ll be your friend.

– © 2016, Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved

Aside from the rhyme and rhythm I wanted to create, I tried hard to steer clear of “filler” words, like “the,” “just,” “quite,” and any other words that might be accused of padding the syllable count or aiding the rhythm. Granted, sometimes those words are absolutely necessary – but often, they serve no purpose in moving a narrative forward or developing a scene, which is why it is one of the first pieces of writing advice I share with budding poets. (Haiku, in particular, requires extreme word economy and has no room for any word that does not contribute to the power of the imagery)

In the mood for more poetry? Karen Edmisten is hosting Poetry Friday today! And again, be sure to check out all the septercets at Michelle’s blog HERE.

img_1591
Mishka, one of our recent foster dogs who found a forever home just two days after she arrived! One of the sweetest, most mellow dogs I’ve ever known.

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