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-Matt Forrest Esenwine and His Daughter, Katherine

Bridget at wee words for wee ones is 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 (Click to Enlarge)

Ants may rule the hill, but they don’t rule here! Art by Landon (Click to Enlarge)

Hello, Great Readers of our series! 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 (a seventh-grader) and I (his great aunt) collaborate. I write a poem which he illustrates. We started this collaboration in the fall of 2014 and have 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. 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 . . .

Matt Forrest Esenwine and His Daughter, Katherine

From Matt: I looked at Katherine’s art and immediately thought of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot – which is a never-ending storm – but then thought it was too beautiful to be a storm. From there, as they say, the poem wrote itself!

 Katherine’s Artstorm-katie-copy

Matt’s Poemslide1

Matt and Katherinekatie-dad-1-copy

Many thanks to Matt and Katherine for sharing their talents with us today.


Matt Headshot 2015 crop copy
Meet Matt: Matt Forrest Esenwine has had several adult poems published in independent collections around the country, including the Tall Grass Writers Guild’s Seasons of Change, Trigger Warning: Poetry Saved My Life, and The 5-2: Crime Poetry Weekly, and others. In 2012 his poem, “Apple-Stealing,” was nominated by the Young Adult Review Network (YARN) for a Pushcart Prize.
Matt’s children’s poetry can be found in numerous anthologies, including Kenn Nesbitt’s One Minute till Bedtime (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2016), Lee Bennett Hopkins’ Lullaby and Kisses Sweet (Abrams Appleseed, 2015), and J. Patrick Lewis’ The National Geographic Book of Nature Poetry (National Geographic Children’s Books, 2015), among others, as well as “Highlights for Kids” magazine. Matt’s two debut picture books, Flashlight Night (Boyd’s Mills Press), and Don’t Ask a Dinosaur (Pow! Kids Books), are scheduled for Fall 2017 and Spring 2018 releases, respectively.

Matt Forrest Esenwine
(603) 660-6989
matt@mattforrest.com

A Great Nephew and a Great Aunt, Guests-Matt Forrest Esenwine With Daughter and Son

Ants may rule the hill, but they don’t rule here! Art by Landon (Click to Enlarge)

Ants may rule the hill, but they don’t rule here! Art by Landon (Click to Enlarge)

Hello, Great Readers of our series! 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 (a sixth-grader) and I (his great aunt) collaborate. I write a poem which he illustrates. We started this collaboration in the fall of 2014 and have had so much fun with it that we decided to invite others along. Landon and I will continue to have a new episode on the second Friday of each month. The other Fridays are filling up quickly with guests.

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 is my pleasure to share two creative collaborations . . .

Matt Forrest Esenwine With His Daughter and Then With His Son

Yes! We’re lucky enough to have two collaborations. Both kid drew pictures and Matt wrote two poems. So twice the fun!

First up is Matt’s collaboration with his 2 year-old daughter.

From Matt: My daughter drew this when she was just 3 months past her second birthday. She’s very specific when she draws – rather than scribble large lines all over a page, she makes very deliberate marks and is always concentrating on what she’s doing. When she completed this picture, I asked her what the circles on the left were; she said they were rocks. I asked her what the large, vertical lines in the center were and she said it was a hand. Thinking this may have been simply a 2-year-old responding with some random answer, I asked her again, 5 days later. “What are those circles in the corner?” “Rocks,” she said. “And these lines here in the middle? What are they?” “That’s a hand.” Well now, I guess she knew what she was drawing!

The PicturePhoebe art copy

 Matt’s PoemSlide2

Next up is Matt’s collaboration with his 5-year old son.
From Matt: My son, who loves-loves-LOVES dinosaurs, just turned 6 at the end of December, so he’s still too young to see any of the “Jurassic” movies…but that hasn’t stopped him from living a ‘Jurassic life’! He takes out every dinosaur book he can find at the library, asks me to help him identify the species he doesn’t already know (and he can identify DOZENS), and he has even developed a talent for drawing, which he never liked doing before. In fact, his drawings today are significantly better than the one he drew just a month ago, for this post. An agent recently told a friend and fellow writer that dinosaurs only appeal to the 3-5-year-old demo…but I’m not buying it!

The Picturegreypicturejurassic 001 copy

Matt’s Poem
Slide1

Many thanks to Matt and his kids for sharing their talents with us. This collaboration was a double delight!


Matt Headshot 2015 crop copyMeet Matt: A voiceover artist and commercial copy writer, Matt Forrest Esenwine has had several adult poems published in various independent collections around the country, including the Tall Grass Writers Guild’sSeasons of Change, Trigger Warning: Poetry Saved My Life, and The 5-2: Crime Poetry Weekly, among others. In 2012 his poem, “Apple-Stealing,” was nominated by the Young Adult Review Network (YARN) for a Pushcart Prize.

Matt’s children’s poetry can be found in Lee Bennett Hopkins’ anthology, Lullaby and Kisses Sweet(Abrams Appleseed, 2015), J. Patrick Lewis’ The National Geographic Book of Nature Poetry (National Geographic Children’s Books, 2015), and “Highlights for Kids” magazine, among others. Matt lives in New Hampshire and is currently working on several children’s book manuscripts.

You can find Matt in all of these places.
www.MattForrest.com
www.MattForrest.Wordpress.com (blog)
www.Facebook.com/MattForrestVoice
www.Twitter.com/MattForrestVW
http://Soundcloud.com/MattForrestVoiceWorks (demos/samples)


Thanks to Catherine for hosting the Poetry Friday Roundup at Reading to the Core. If you’d like to know more about Poetry Friday, click HERE for an explanation by Renee LaTulippe.poetry friday button