Happy Book Birthday to Matt Forrest Esenwine and Flashlight Night!

Happy Book Birthday, Matt!

Congratulations on your debut picture book, Flashlight Night

I read hundreds of picture books every year and Flashlight Night is one of my favorite reads. Not just one of my favorite reads of the year, but one of my favorite reads of all time. It’s a magical book and as soon as I finished the last page, I flipped back to the front to read it again. There is so much to take in between the words and the art. I think the blurb on the book jacket may sum up what I’m trying to say.

“What happens when you combine a flashlight, a storyteller, and the dark of night? You find MAGIC, WONDER, and a life-changing ADVENTURE.”

It’s obvious from the reviews that I’m not the only one who felt the magic.

“The verse is incantatory…a simple idea that’s engagingly executed” – School Library Journal

“Delicious language…ingenious metamorphoses” – Starred Review Kirkus Reviews

“[Esenwine and Koehler] don’t just lobby for children to read—they show how readers play” – Publisher’s Weekly

“Imaginative…fantastical” – ALA Booklist

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

I imagine those of you reading this post can’t wait to open the pages of this book and experience the magic for yourselves. Once you’ve experienced it, you may be curious like I was. Where did this magical book start? What sparked the idea? Guess what? I have someone “in the know” here today! Lucky us!

So Matt, I would love it if you’d share the inspiration for Flashlight Night and “shine a light” on your writing process, from idea to completed manuscript. Tell us how you captured MAGIC, WONDER, and ADVENTURE in just 32 pages.

I have been asked by numerous folks about the inspiration for Flashlight Night , and I have yet to come up with what I feel is a decent answer. I know how the book came about – I’m just not sure why. It started off, simply, with me attending a local SCBWI (Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators) event in Massachusetts.

Back in August 2014, a number of local SCBWI members had gotten together at Kimball Farm in Westford, Mass. to hang out and chat over appetizers and drinks and as I was driving home, the idea of a flashlight “opening up the night” popped into my head. It was at least 10pm or so, and all I could see was what my headlights revealed…so I started thinking about what to do with the words in my head, and by the time I was home (and hour and a half later) I had the opening and closing stanzas pretty well nailed down.

The following week, I continued working on it – still not sure if it was a stand-alone poem or a picture book manuscript – and had completed the first draft within just 6 or 7 days. By the time it was done, I knew it was a picture book, albeit a very poetically-written one. (Of course, I continued tweaking it over the course of the following 2 or 3 weeks, because I wanted it to be as polished as possible before sending it out to my editor, Rebecca Davis at Boyds Mills Press.

As I write primarily poetry, I deliberately made use of alliteration and internal rhyme, unusual end rhymes, and fun words that would not only lend themselves to fleshing out the story and imagery, but would perhaps stretch a young person’s vocabulary.

There were actually several things I deliberately did, which I wasn’t sure were going to help or hinder me:

  • The word ‘flashlight’ is used only once, as the very first word.
  • There is no mention of any other characters – boys, girls, animals, names.
  • The main subject of the book (the flashlight) is inanimate.
  • Imagery was abundant, but often ambiguous.
  • The story arc does not follow any sort of formula, other than there is a loose narrative.

Knowing there was a lot of imagery in this manuscript, I tried to keep specific details out of the story, so an illustrator could have ample room to share in telling the tale. For example, in one scene I make reference to a “peculiar door” – and that’s all I say about it. I figured, I’d let the illustrator determine why it’s peculiar!

Click to enlarge.

In another instance, I describe a “vessel, tightly moored.” Again, that’s the only description I give – and although I had a pirate ship in mind, I was happy to let an illustrator make that call. (which Fred Koehler did!)

Click to enlarge.

Speaking of Fred, I can’t thank him enough for taking on this manuscript. He told me loved the classic feel of the text so much that he wanted to create a classic look to the illustrations – so this is his very first manuscript using traditional media. He drew all the illustrations by hand, inked them in, then scanned them into his computer to colorize them.

So every detail you see – from the dark, foreboding sky to the spooky, textured shadows – is painstakingly hand-drawn! (And as someone who has a minor in studio art, it just boggles my mind to know Fred did all that freehand – and just wait til you see the fur on the giant bear.)

I hope everyone enjoys the book, and thank you so much, Penny, for shining your spotlight on “Flashlight” today! And congrats to you, on your “Cooked-Up Fairy Tale!”

Thank you for taking the time to share your process, Matt. It was very interesting and the attention you gave to Flashlight Night makes me love it even more!

A couple of things!

***Goodreads giveaway! You could win one of TWENTY COPIES of Flashlight Night. Starting at midnight 12:00 am PT, TODAY, Tuesday, September 19 (publication day) you can enter! The contest will wrap up at 11:59 pm PT on Tuesday, Sept. 26.

To learn more about Flashlight Night be sure to check out the stops on Matt’s blog tour.

Friday 9/15                  Jama’s Alphabet Soup
Monday 9/18               KitLit Exchange/ Loud Library Lady
Tuesday 9/19               Penny Klostermann Book Blog
Wednesday 9/20        Unleashing Readers
Thursday 9/21             KidLit Frenzy
Friday 9/22                  Mrs. Knott’s Book Nook
Monday 9/25               Librarian in Cute Shoes
Tuesday 9/26               Nerdy Book Club


Meet Matt: Over the years, Matt Forrest Esenwine has had several adult poems published in literary journals and magazines around the country, and in 2012 his poem, “Apple-Stealing,” was nominated by the Young Adult Review Network (YARN) for a Pushcart Prize. Meanwhile, his children’s poetry can be found in numerous anthologies including J. Patrick Lewis’ The National Geographic Book of Nature Poetry (National Geographic Children’s Books, 2015), Kenn Nesbitt’s One Minute till Bedtime (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2016), and Lee Bennett Hopkins’ School People (Boyds Mills Press, 2018), as well as “Highlights for Kids” magazine. His picture books include Flashlight Night (Boyds Mills Press, 2017) and Don’t Ask a Dinosaur (Pow! Kids Books, 2018, co-authored with Deb Bruss).

 

A Great Nephew and a Great Aunt Guests: Tim McCanna and His Son, Nate

poetry friday buttonThanks to Michelle at Today’s Little Ditty for hosting the Poetry Friday Roundup today. If you’d like to know more about Poetry Friday, click HERE for an explanation by Renee LaTulippe.

Ants may rule the hill, but they don’t rule here! Art by Landon

Ants may rule the hill, but they don’t rule here! Art by Landon

Hello Friends! Just In case you haven’t visited before, let me tell you a little about A Great Nephew and A Great Aunt. My great nephew, Landon (now an eighth-grader) and I (his great aunt) collaborate. I write a poem which he illustrates. We started this collaboration in the fall of 2014 and had so much fun with it that we decided to invite others along. Landon and I will continue to have a new episode on one Friday of each month. The other Fridays are filling up quickly with guests sharing poetry and art in beautiful collaborations. I have created a page on my website to view all the episodes of A Great Nephew and a Great Aunt. Click HERE to visit the page and enjoy past episodes.

Today it’s my pleasure to share a creative collaboration from . . .

Tim McCanna and His Son, Nate

From Tim: I loved playing Dungeons & Dragons when I was a kid. The magic! The monsters! The 20-sided dice! It’s the ultimate role-playing game that’s all about storytelling and using your imagination. But another aspect of the game I loved were the detailed miniatures I painted and played with during campaigns with my friends. I’ve passed on my love of D&D to my 12-year old son, Nate, and besides playing the game, we have a lot of fun sitting down and painting minis together. I’m no illustrator—I’m a words & music man by trade—but I get great satisfaction from choosing my colors and bringing these creatures to life with tiny, fine-tipped brushes. Each mini is like a blank canvas, and when we’re done, the characters beg to have their stories told.

Nate and I recently painted two new minis for our collection. His is a fierce cave troll, and mine is a gruesome ogre with horns. Once the paint was dry, I wrote a poem for our miniature monsters and Nate provided an illustration.

Tim’s Poem

Nate’s Art

Art by Nate

Tim and Nate Bringing Their Creatures to Life
Click on images to enlarge.

Unpainted Minis

The Paint Table

Nate at Work

Ogre

Finished Minis

Tim and Nate

Swing by your local game shop to learn more about miniatures and roll-playing games!

Many thanks to Tim and Nate for sharing their talents with us today!


Meet Tim: Tim McCanna is the author of Bitty Bot, Barnyard Boogie, Teeny Tiny Trucks, and Watersong, which received a star from Kirkus Reviews. His upcoming picture books include Jack B. Ninja, Bitty Bot’s Big Beach Getaway, and Boing! Tim serves as Assistant Regional Advisor for SCBWI’s San Francisco/South chapter, and he enjoys going on woodsy hikes with his wife, two kids, and their dog Millie.
Find Tim online at www.timmccanna.com.

Winner of Marsha Diane Arnold’s Baby Animals Take a Bath!!!

Marsha Diane Arnold joined me on my blog on September 1st to collaborate with her four-year-old granddaughter Gráinne. It was a delightful collaboration featuring poetry and art! If you missed their collaboration, you can see it HERE.

Not only did readers get to enjoy the collaboration but they also had a chance to win a signed copy of Marsha’s newest board book, Baby Animals Take a Bath. All they had to do was leave a comment on the blog post by midnight September 8th to be in the drawing.

And we have a WINNER!

The signed copy of 

Baby Animals Take a Bath 

goes to

 

Michelle Heidenrich Barnes!!!

 

Congratulations, Michelle!

Thanks, Marsha!

 

A Great Nephew and a Great Aunt: Landon and Penny

poetry friday buttonThanks to Matt at Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme for hosting the Poetry Friday Roundup today. If you’d like to know more about Poetry Friday, click HERE for an explanation by Renee LaTulippe.

Ants may rule the hill, but they don’t rule here! Art by Landon

Hello Friends! Just In case you haven’t visited before, let me tell you a little about A Great Nephew and A Great Aunt. My great nephew, Landon (now an eighth-grader) and I (his great aunt) collaborate. I write a poem which he illustrates. We started this collaboration in the fall of 2014 and had so much fun with it that we decided to invite others along. Landon and I will continue to have a new episode on one Friday of each month. The other Fridays are filling up quickly with guests sharing poetry and art in beautiful collaborations. I have created a page on my website to view all the episodes of A Great Nephew and a Great Aunt. Click HERE to visit the page and enjoy past episodes.

Since Landon and I started this series in the fall of 2014, today’s post begins our third year of collaborations! Hope you enjoy!

Penny’s Poem

Landon’s Art

Art by Landon

 I absolutely love how Landon’s school bus is a crayon box! Along with being a talented artist, he’s super creative!

Thanks so much for joining us today. I appreciate all of you who read this series. See you next week when I’ll have guest collaborators.

A Great Nephew and a Great Aunt Guests: Marsha Diane Arnold and her Granddaughter, Gráinne + a Giveaway

poetry friday buttonThanks to Kat hosting the Poetry Friday Roundup today. If you’d like to know more about Poetry Friday, click HERE for an explanation by Renee LaTulippe.

Ants may rule the hill, but they don’t rule here! Art by Landon

Ants may rule the hill, but they don’t rule here! Art by Landon

Hello Friends! Just In case you haven’t visited before, let me tell you a little about A Great Nephew and A Great Aunt. My great nephew, Landon (now an eighth-grader) and I (his great aunt) collaborate. I write a poem which he illustrates. We started this collaboration in the fall of 2014 and had so much fun with it that we decided to invite others along. Landon and I will continue to have a new episode on one Friday of each month. The other Fridays are filling up quickly with guests sharing poetry and art in beautiful collaborations. I have created a page on my website to view all the episodes of A Great Nephew and a Great Aunt. Click HERE to visit the page and enjoy past episodes.


**GIVEAWAY! Before you view today’s collaboration I wanted to let you know that Marsha has generously offered a signed copy of her newest board book, Baby Animals Take a Bath, with delightful illustrations by Phyllis Tildes. Many are giving this book with a hooded towel and bath toy for baby showers.

About the Story: From a polar bear rolling in the snow to a zebra in the dust, animals in various settings enjoy their special kind of bath, ending with a human baby having fun in a bubble bath. Little ones will discover some new animals and understand that all animals, including humans, have important things in common.
**Those who enter must have a US address. All you have to do is leave a comment below by September 8th at midnight CST. A winner will be randomly selected.


Today it’s my pleasure to share a creative collaboration from . . .

Marsha Diane Arnold and her Granddaughter, Gráinne

From Marsha: My granddaughter Gráinne recently turned four. Her favorite things to draw are faces, the sun, and trees. She has always been enchanted by the wind. So, I wrote a simple poem about the wind and dancing with leaves for our collaboration.

Marsha’s Poem

Being an independent soul, Gráinne’s mind took her first to fiery eyes and burning marshmallows before she settled down to the wind dance. Here is her progression:

Gráinne’s Process

Art by Gráinne

Art by Gráinne

Gráinne’s Final Art

Art by Gráinne

Proud Artist

After Gráinne made a few drawings of herself dancing with the leaves, she declared she wanted to go outside to talk to a tree. She stood in front of our big oak for a few moments having a conversation, then danced with the oak. I love that our collaboration of poem and drawing also took her outside for some real dancing and to commune with nature. Thank you, Gráinne, for sharing your creativity and your enthusiasm.

The Collaborators

Many thanks to Marsha and Gráinne for sharing their talents with us today.


Meet Marsha: Marsha Diane Arnold is a multi-award winning picture book author whose books have sold over 1 million copies. The media has called her, “a born storyteller.” Recent books are Waiting for Snow and Junior Library Guild selection Lost. Found.. Three new picture books are scheduled for 2018.

Marsha shares her love of books and writing by visiting schools around the world and through her online course, Writing Wonderful Character-Driven Picture Books, http://www.childrensbookacademy.com/writing-character-driven-stories.html. Like her granddaughter, she enjoys climbing and talking with trees. You may find more about Marsha’s books and school visits at www.marshadianearnold.com or visit her on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/MarshaDianeArnoldAuthor/

A Great Nephew and a Great Aunt Guests: Ken Slesarik and His Daughter Catherine

poetry friday buttonThanks to Jone at Check it Out for hosting the Poetry Friday Roundup today. If you’d like to know more about Poetry Friday, click HERE for an explanation by Renee LaTulippe.

Ants may rule the hill, but they don’t rule here! Art by Landon

Ants may rule the hill, but they don’t rule here! Art by Landon

Hello Friends! We’re back for more collaborations on my series, A Great Nephew and A Great Aunt. Just In case you haven’t visited the series before, let me tell you a little about  it. My great nephew, Landon (now an eighth-grader) and I (his great aunt) collaborate. I write a poem which he illustrates. We started this collaboration in the fall of 2014 and had so much fun with it that we decided to invite others along. Landon and I will continue to have a new episode on one Friday of each month. The other Fridays are filling up quickly with guests sharing poetry and art in beautiful collaborations. I have created a page on my website to view all the episodes of A Great Nephew and a Great Aunt. Click HERE to visit the page and enjoy past episodes.

I’m super excited that our first episode this fall (it’s almost fall 🙂 ) will feature return guests. Today it’s my pleasure to share another creative collaboration from . . .

Ken Slesarik and His Daughter Catherine

I love the story behind this collaboration.

From Ken: As far as the collaboration process, Catherine shared her work in progress with me and I looked at the tiny mermaid and thought how brave she must be to venture into the depths of the ocean. About this same time, I was considering changing schools but did not yet have the courage to apply. I had heard about an amazing staff and school that was really making a difference. They are known as the “Trailblazers” and eventually I was hired and I’m smitten with the school and staff that I have met thus far. Vista Peak is a unique school that serves students who may have difficulty in a typical school setting. With the poem, I wanted to capture in as few words as possible what I perceived as an important goal of the Vista staff and that being to produce thoughtful, calm, unfazable, courageous, trailblazing students.

When Catherine and I each completed our part, I was very pleased with the results and feel the art and poem complement each other much like an illustration in a book and it also is our personal “hello” to my new school and sort of celebrates my next venture as a teacher. We hope you enjoy our efforts.

The Collaboration:
Poem by Ken Slesarik
Art by Catherine Slesarik

The Collaborators

Ken and Catherine collaborated in 2016 too. You can view that episode HERE. Also, Ken collaborated with a group of 1st graders in his after school poetry club. You can view that episode HERE.

Many thanks to Ken and Catherine for sharing their talents with us today.


Catherine2Meet Catherine: Catherine Slesarik is an award-winning artist and college student from Arizona. She enjoys sharing her talents with people of all ages. An avid reader and science buff, Catherine plans to incorporate science in her work as a children’s illustrator to inspire girls and women everywhere.


Ken SlesarikMeet Ken: Ken Slesarik is a special education teacher and children’s poet from Phoenix, Arizona. His “Heroes and Poets” assembly program has been well received by teachers, students, parents and administrators. When not teaching or visiting schools Ken writes poetry for children with poems published in several world-wide anthologies and magazines. Ken’s mission is to empower students through the medium of poetry and he is a poetry advocate to children and teachers alike.

Winner of THE ROAD THAT TRUCKS BUILT!!!

We

have

a

WINNER!!!

And

that

winner

has

won

a

copy

of 

by

Susanna Leonard Hill!!!!

I do believe we actually have two winners because these two are always together!

Congratulations

to

Genevieve Petrillo and Cupcake! A-rooooo!

If you missed the post about about THE ROAD THAT TRUCKS BUILT, you can go right HERE and read my interview with Susanna. If you weren’t a winner just click on the book cover and you can buy your own copy 😀