Matt Forrest Esenwine joins Dr. Diane to talk about A Beginner's Guide to Being Human. Matt is a radio host, voiceover artist, poet, and picture book author, whose works include Once Upon Another Time, Flashlight Night, and I Am Today, as well as anthologies like Lee Bennett Hopkins’ Night Wishes and Construction People. Along the way, we talk poetry, inspiration, and fun ways to connect poetry into the curriculum. Plus we discover what rainbow eucalyptus is. Follow the show notes for a chance to win a copy of Matt's latest book. Entries must be received by 10/26/22.
[00:50] A Beginner's Guide to Being Human. What makes this book so special? What is creative nonfiction? And how does the book introduce kids to emotions, feelings, kindness, compassion, forgiveness, and opposable thumbs?
[04:48] An excerpt from A Beginner's Guide to Being Human and a conversation about the book's impact for kids and their adults (grown ups apologize!). Click to view the video excerpt and see the pages shared.
[11:30] Inspiration Calls! Coming soon, Everybody Counts and The Thing to Remember about Stargazing,
[13:13] How did Matt go from radio to children's books?
If you're given an opportunity, even if it's something that you're not sure that you've ever done before, you're not sure you're going to be able to do, say yes. Use the opportunity and figure out a way to do it.
[18:33] Poetry as the "Stepchild of Children's Literature" (thank you, J. Patrick Lewis) We discuss ways to inspire teachers and students to fall in love with poetry, to play with poetry, and to build connections with poetry across the curriculum.
[27:00] Ever heard of a rainbow eucalyptus? Me either, but you're about to know what it is as Matt shares the process and the short free verse poem he wrote for the National Geographic Book of Nature Poetry
[33:45] School Visit Questions -- How Long Does It Take To Write a Poem?
[37:10] More sources of inspiration!
[40:06] Hope for the future. It's the source for I Am Today, a recent book about a child who recognizes an injustice and discovers they can do something about it.Support the show
Read the full show notes, visit the website, and check out my on-demand virtual course. Continue the adventure at LinkedIn or Instagram.
*Disclosure: I am a Bookshop.org. affiliate.
[00:00] Dr. Diane: So welcome to the Adventures In Learning podcast. I'm your host, Dr. Diane, and today we are so lucky we get to talk to Matt Forrest Esenwine, who has put us as part of his brand new podcast book blog tour for A Beginner's Guide to Being Human. We're going to talk about his brand new book, which is coming out in October. We're going to talk about some of his past poetry, which includes Don't Ask a Dinosaur, Once Upon Another Time, Flashlight Night, and I Am Today, as well as some of his anthologies like Lee Bennett Hopkins’ Night Wishes, School People, and Construction People. And we're going to hear about his 25 years or so in radio. So, Matt, welcome to the show.
[00:40] Matt: Well, that's a lot to cover.
[00:43] Dr. Diane: We'll see what we can do in an hour.
[00:45] Matt: Right? Well, it's great to be here. Thank you for inviting me. I really appreciate it.
[00:50] Dr. Diane: So I know you're currently on your book tour for a A Beginner's Guide to Being Human. Let's start with that. Share what this book is about and why it's special.
[01:00] Matt: Well, there's always a story behind the book. No two books are the same as far as how you kind of get into it or how it's created. So A Beginner's Guide to Being Human, it's my very first creative nonfiction book. Most of the books I do, if they're not rhyming, they're at least probably poetic, lyrical. There's a loose narrative that kind of carries through. But creative nonfiction is more informational. But I still try to keep it light and enjoyable. And there's some funny parts. And it's about just kind of introducing kids to emotions, feelings, concepts like kindness and compassion and empathy and forgiveness and patience and self-control and love and opposable thumbs. So all the things that kind of make us human. And so that's kind of what the book is about.
The interesting thing about it for me, is that it was never a book I had ever planned to write. I had submitted a manuscript to Beaming Books to my editor, Naomi Krueger. And Naomi was our editor for Once Upon Another Time. That had come out back in the spring of 2021. And that was a book I had coauthored with my good friend Charles Ghigna, who's known as Father Goose. Charles is highly esteemed in the kid lit world. I mean, he's written thousands of poems. He's got 100 books. I mean, his poems show up on the SATS. Charles is like, If I'm here, Charles is way up there, but a great guy. And so we co wrote Once Upon Another Time. And so I had a totally separate manuscript called The Beginner's Guide to Stargazing, which I had submitted to Naomi. And she liked the manuscript she didn't feel was quite right for the publishing company, but she really liked it. And she said, you know, I have been wanting to publish a book introducing kids to these concepts of kindness and compassion and everything. And she said, Would you be interested in writing that sort of a book, kind of in this style? The manuscript I submitted to her, she said, in this style, but it would be about human emotions and things like that. You would have to obviously change the title of the manuscript about the Stargazing because you can't have two beginners guides with two different companies. That's why I said, Fine, yeah, I'd be interested in doing that. There was no guarantee that what I wrote, she would like. But I took on the challenge.
So I wrote that. I changed the title of The Beginner's Guide to Stargazing. I changed that to The Things We Remember About Stargazing, which is really how I start off the manuscript and how I end it. So I changed the title to that, and I got working on A Beginner's Guide to Being Human. And she did like it, so they bought it. We signed the contract, and I got my advance, and then we started working on revisions. And now here we have the book. And the manuscript I originally sent her ended up actually getting picked up by Tilbury House last year and so that we're hoping will come out next fall. So I wrote a manuscript that didn't get picked up, but I got another manuscript out of it. And then the manuscript I had originally written that got picked up, too.
[04:45] Dr. Diane: That sounds incredible.
[04:47] Matt: You’ve got to stick with it.
[04:48] Dr. Diane: Would you mind sharing an excerpt from A Beginner's Guide to Being Human?
[04:53] Matt: Sure.
[04:54] Dr. Diane: Who did the illustrations for it?
[04:58] Matt: A fellow named Andre Ceolin. So that's A Beginner's Guide to Being Human. That's the interior. And it starts off very simply, Welcome to humanity. You're really going to love it here. And so it introduces, we see children kind of throughout the day to various children just living their lives throughout the day. And I start off saying: “The human species has so much to offer: imagination, opposable thumbs, and a tremendous amount of diversity. Put these all together and you've got an amazing life ahead of you. However, to get the most out of your human experience, there are some things you need to know.”
And then we get into things like kindness and compassion. And the first thing we start off here: “That group of humans who hang around you all the time is known as family. And no matter what they look like, sound like, or smell like, they're the people who care about you the most. And you don't even need to be related to be family. Families love each other, disappoint each other, support each other, and get angry with each other over and over, sometimes all in the same day. Weird, right? And yet that whole caring about you part never stops.”
So then we get into a little bit more about compassion and kindness and kind of what it means. One example, I give is being kind. It means more than just being polite. Maybe I give examples like sharing a book or a toy or giving your sister the last pancake, right? And then I mentioned about letting a best friend get on the bus and you see a bunch of kids getting on the school bus, said, let your friend get on the bus first. Better yet, let someone you don't even know get on the bus first. Little things like that. Unfortunately, they're not even second nature to adults these days, but hopefully kids can. I didn't want to be preachy or didactic. So it's just kind of saying, hey, here's this way that you could be kind. Being empathetic means understanding how someone feels like putting yourself in their place and feeling like, oh, I understand how that person feels. So if someone bumps into you, maybe they lost their glasses. A kid is in the lunch line at school and they cut in front of you in line. Maybe that's the only meal they have all day long. Think about things like that. And so hopefully kids and parents will get something out of it.
[07:39] Dr. Diane: And that's been kind of a theme of the last month on the podcast. We talked to Trudy Ludwig earlier this month. We've talked to Stephanie Goloway and the I'm Just Me Foundation, Rodney and Tina Culbreath. And what I love is that throughout these episodes, the common theme has been connection and how do we build empathy as an action word. And I think that your book really builds nicely onto that. It's one of those things that we really need today in our country, both for children and adults.
[08:08] Matt: Thank you. One of the small little parts. It's a small part, but I think it's a big part as well. There's a scene in the book where I'm talking about forgiveness, and I say how there's going to be some great days and there's going to be some not so great days. There are going to be days where you're going to feel sadness, disappointment, maybe anger, but that's what forgiveness is for. And I told actually, both my editors — Naomi Krueger was the one who it was her idea and she's the one who bought the main script and kind of got the ball rolling and then she ended up taking over some other areas at the publishing company. So she handed the manuscript off to Andrea Hall, who’s been a wonderful editor who helped wrap it all up. And one thing that I told them both I really wanted to make sure that we did and they both agreed was that in the spread that shows forgiveness it's the adult who is saying they're sorry to the kid because far too often it's always the kid who messed up and they made a mistake and they have to apologize either to an adult or they have to apologize to another kid. It's always the kid. I said, I really want it to be an adult, like, the parent making the mistakes, growing up and showing the kids like, I'm sorry, because we parents, we're not perfect. I screw up all the time. I'm flying by the seat of my pants with the whole parenting thing, and I wanted to show kids that we grown ups do it too, you're not alone in having bad days. You're not alone in making mistakes. We grown ups make our own fair share.
[10:01] Dr. Diane: Absolutely. And there is no real parenting guide. We're flying by the seat of our pants, so sometimes we mess up.
[10:09] Matt: OTJ, on the job training.
[10:11] Dr. Diane: I like that. We're going to take a quick break, but when we come back, we're going to find out where Matt Forrest Esenwine finds his inspiration for his picture books and poetry.
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[11:30] Dr. Diane: Welcome back to the Adventures In Learning podcast. I'm your host, Dr. Diane, and today we are talking to picture book author and poet Matt Forrest Esenwine about A Beginner's Guide to Being Human. So where do you find inspiration for your books? You have, like, twelve picture books and books of poetry at this point.
[11:54] Matt: So if you count A Beginner's Guide to Being Human, I have six books out, and I do have about four or five more under contract or on the way. I've got another one coming out in January called Everybody Counts ,where twelve different kids, they're anthropomorphic animals, but there are twelve kids of different ethnicities, and they teach the reader how to count to ten in each of their languages. So it's called Everybody Counts because there's a double entendre, so I'm really excited about that. That's from the Little Fig Publishing. So that comes out in January.
We're hoping that that Stargazing book, The Thing to Remember about Stargazing, hoping that that comes out from Tilbury House in the fall. I might have a board book coming out next year. I might have another, there's a poetry anthology. It's one of Lee Bennett Hopkins’ final it might be actually his final anthology. He passed away a few years ago and still had a couple of books that he was working on. So that hopefully will be out next year. It might not be till the next year, but then I've got a couple of anthologies of my own and another picture book. So, yeah, still on the way, and I'm still trying to sell. I'm not agented, so I don't have an agent. Everything I do is submitted on my own. So it's a lot of work.
[13:13] Dr. Diane: I'm going to ask the question then. This is the Adventures In Learning podcast, and it sounds to me that you have had quite the adventure. You went from a career in radio broadcasting to being an author with a lot of books coming out. How did you get there?
[13:29] Matt: I have no idea. If I had to say anything, open yourself up to possibilities and say yes. The SCBWI — The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators — I was at a conference. I usually go every year to our regional conference, but I was at one of our conferences several years ago. Kwame Alexander had just come out with The Crossover the year before. Nobody knew who he was. And so this year, The Crossover had just come out, and everybody and their brother is buying copies of his book, and they want to talk to him. And he had said, he had told me it was quite a change from, what a difference a year makes. He had given, I don't know if it was the keynote, but he'd given a talk at the conference about always say yes. If you're given an opportunity, even if it's something that you're not sure that you've ever done before, you're not sure you're going to be able to do, say yes. Use the opportunity and figure out a way to do it. And so I do try to keep my mind open for possibilities.
I mean, that Stargazing book started off as a poem that I had written for a poetry anthology by Paul Janeczko — it became The Proper Way to Meet a Hedgehog and Other How to Do Poems. And Paul passed away the same year Lee Bennett Hopkins passed away. I mean, we lost two incredible human beings, poetry anthologists, and poetry crusaders, and I never learned why the poem didn't make it into the book. Paul had asked me if I had some poems to contribute, so I sent maybe three or four, and A Beginner's Guide to Stargazing, which is the poem, was about Stargazing. It really wasn't a beginner's guide. It was actually kind of a tongue in cheek, ironic kind of a poem. But it was a how to poem about Stargazing. It never made the book, and he passed away, and I was never able to ask him why. And so we were talking or I was talking with a mutual friend of ours, Rebecca Kai Dotlich. She is an astounding children's poet and author, and we were both friends with Paul. And I said I had this poem. I didn't know why it never made it in. And she said, It's a beautiful poem. She said, I don't know if maybe it was just a little bit too long for his purposes. She said, you could shave it down and try to resubmit it maybe somewhere else, or maybe just flesh it out into a picture book format. And I really liked it the way it was. I didn't want to shave it down at all, but I said, yeah, I could probably flesh it out into a picture book and have a very lyrical, kind of loose narrative picture book. So it became Beginner's Guide to Stargazing. And that was a picture book manuscript which I started sending off and sending off. And like I said, Naomi Krueger really liked it, but she didn't feel it was quite right for Beaming Books. So we ended up doing the Beginner's Guide to Being Human. I changed the title and then Tilbury House picked it up as The Thing to Remember about Stargazing. So here it was, this poem that I had never even written. I hadn't even thought about writing it. Paul asked me if I had any how to poems to submit. And so I started thinking, well, what could I write about? How to do this or how to do that? And several of my nieces and nephews who live just outside of Boston had visited us here in New Hampshire, and they had never seen the constellations. In fact, they're in middle school and high school and they had never seen the constellations because in Massachusetts where they live, light pollution. Yes. And so they were just amazed. It was one night that they were up here. There was no moon, and it was just stars. You can see the Milky Way and all the constellations. And I'm pointing out the constellations to them because I want to be an astronomer when I was a kid. And so I thought, oh, I could write a poem about stargazing. So I had never planned on writing a poem about stargazing. But because they happened to be visiting us and they're looking at the stars, that gave me the idea, oh, I'll write a poem for Paul's book about stargazing. And then he didn't accept the poem, but I turned it into a picture book format. And then Naomi Kruger didn't pick it up, but she picked up another manuscript. But then I changed the title and I sold the manuscript to a different place. So I wouldn't have A Beginner's Guide to Being Human and I wouldn't have the thing to remember about stargazing if it hadn't been for just a chance visit by my nieces and nephews looking up at the stars one night. You never know where inspiration is going to come from and you just have to be kind of open to it.
[18:29] Dr. Diane: I would say be attuned to the world around you.
[18:32] Matt: Yeah.
[18:33] Dr. Diane: One of the things that poetry has been called is the stepchild of children's literature. That I know that when teachers are teaching poetry, often it's the last thing they teach. It gets shoved to the side. And I'm wondering, how do we open teachers up to appreciate the joy that poetry can bring in adding to the curriculum and helping to expand worldview? My dissertation research was with preschoolers years ago, and I actually looked at poetry in the preschool classroom. And what I found is that four and five year olds love poetry and they're attuned to it. It's the way that they the world and they love to act it out. They love to play with language, and somehow between preschool and middle school, it gets killed.
[19:23] Matt: Yeah. I think as adults, a lot of us had poetry classes in high school, and that just killed any kind of interest because you were given a Shakespearean sonic and you pulled it apart and you had to figure out what he was talking about and why was this set and what is the meaning of this other thing. Or there might be a free verse poem that you have to pick apart. And it's one thing to try to figure out what the poet was trying to get across. But I think analyzing poetry so much, educators will inadvertently kill the joy of simply reading it and letting yourself experience the words. The poet put the words in that particular order. They use those particular words for a purpose, where you have a line, then you stop a line, you start over a line. There was a reason why the poet stopped there and continued on. And I think by making it so academic, you take the joy out of it. Because when I'm writing poetry and that's how I got into children's literature, I've been writing poetry forever. I found I cleaned out my parents attic when they had to go to a nursing home several years ago, and I was an only child and like 65, 70 year old marriage. You can imagine how much stuff I was pulling out of the attic. And I found some old papers that they had saved from elementary school. And it was like this little three or four page poetry book that I'd written for mom, and I was probably ten. And I developed a love of poetry in high school and through college, and I was publishing I had several sort of adult oriented poems published in literary journals and adult anthologies and things like that.
I kind of got into children's lit through my children's poetry, and that was how I was able to meet Lee Bennett Hopkins and Jane Yolan and Nikki Grimes and all these folks who I've worked with now. And we're friends and we bounce ideas off each other, and it's really incredible. But you still have people who sort of set aside poetry or they don't think about it. And yet kids love rhyme. Not that poetry needs to rhyme, but kids love rhyme. They love the rhythm of poetry and they love the images. And for someone like me with a short attention span, I love writing and reading poetry.
But I love writing it because you can tell you can say a lot in a tiny title compact space. If you use word economy, every word has to count in a picture book, even more so with poetry, you've only got maybe four lines, eight lines, maybe a little bit more, but you've only got so much space to impart a feeling or share a scene or tell a story or whatever you're doing. And once you're done that, you can move on and do something else. I love poetry because I'm done and now I'm off writing something else. And for kids, kids get to play with language. With poetry, it can rhyme.
But if I'm doing a school visit and sharing some of my picture books or some of my poetry, if someone's going to pay me to visit their school, I'm going to do more than just read a book. You should be getting something for the money that you're spending. I really try to get kids to, I try to introduce them to free verse poetry and try to get them to understand what that's all about. Not because I have anything against rhyming poetry. I love rhyme and classic forms, villanelles and sonnets and ballad stanzas and all that kind of stuff. But kids will get rhyming in school. They read picture books that rhyme. They understand. When I'm teaching free verse and I'm trying to get the kids to write, they start writing in rhyme, even if I tell them not to, because they want to. So I'm not introducing anything new by saying here's what a rhyme is or here's what a meter or rhythm is.
I try to get them to really think about their subject, which is the most important part of poetry, understanding what the subject is, asking questions about your subject. And it could be a sunset, it could be a rock, it could be computer mouse or whatever it is. Ask yourself, what is it? What else could it be? If it's not? Maybe it's a drinking glass. What else could it be? What else could it hold? How old is it? Well, I just got it last year. What if it's 200 years old, a 200 year old glass? And what if it's not holding water? What if it's holding something else? Just keep asking questions and a story will come about, or a scene will come about, or a feeling will come about and then you can write about that. And you don't have to worry about rhythm, you don't have to worry about rhyme. You can just worry about getting your thoughts on paper. You don't have to worry about punctuation. There's an opportunity to say the heck with you punctuation. I'm just going to write the words, and if you don't have a word that means what you want it to mean, like, there's a word, you want to say it, but there's no word for it. Make the word up. If the teacher says you can't do that, tell them Dr. Seuss did.
[25:41] Dr. Diane: I love it.
[25:43] Matt: So have fun. Have fun with poetry. Have fun with writing. And you don't have to be intimidated by writing three or four paragraphs or writing an entire story, a two page story of what you did over the summer. Write a short poem about one specific thing that you enjoyed over the summer, and you'd be surprised what the kids can come up with when you give them that freedom.
[26:08] Dr. Diane: And poetry really is a sense of freedom and that sense of expression. When I'm teaching teachers, often I'll have them take Eloise Greenfield's Nathaniel's Rap, and I'll make them recite it, and they'll have to do it. They don't have to put themselves on camera, but they have to read it and get the rhythm and just share it with us. And then I share her YouTube video where she did Nathaniel's Rap. If you haven't seen it, go look it up.
[26:34] Matt: I haven't seen her.
[26:34] Dr. Diane: The video, it will absolutely make your day because it's so joyful, and it sort of gets them out of their heads and gets them to realize that there's joy in the poetry. And hearing her rap her own poem, they're like, oh, this is entertainment. This is fun, and just trying to get some music.
[26:53] Matt: They love hip hop. They love music. They love songs. They love writing picture books. Why would they not like poetry?
[26:59] Dr. Diane: Exactly.
[27:00] Matt: The adults who think, oh, poetry is too obtuse. The dark purple envelope of my being slices through the heart of the rhinoceros. I can't get into that kind of poetry. A lot of modern contemporary poetry, a lot of it's good, but a lot of it is just so obtuse. I don't even know what I'm reading. So that's not what we're talking about.
You know, I want to see if I can find it quickly here. So the poem that I wrote for the National Geographic Book of Nature Poetry, that was done by J. Patrick Lewis, he had asked me, he had forgotten to ask me, to contribute a poem to the book. And so I had mentioned to him, I said, by the way, I heard there's the book coming out, and if there's something I can contribute, I'd love to. He said, oh, I'm so sorry. I totally had forgotten you, and there's a couple of others I'd wanted to ask. I said that's fine. I mean, you're the US Children's Poet Laureate. You don't have to apologize to me. But he said, no, I'll keep you in mind. And as it turned out, a couple of weeks later, there were some poems that had been submitted to him that he couldn't use for whatever reason. And so he said, I need a poem about rainbow eucalyptus trees, and I really need it by the end of the week, if that's possible. And so again, I said yes. And so I did some research. Thank you, Google. And the rainbow eucalyptus, if you get a chance to Google, rainbow eucalyptus trees, they are the most beautiful things in the world. They look like paint splattered trees. They're a member of the rubber tree family in eucalyptus, but they literally look like paints splattered all over the trunks of the trees. And so I wrote a short little free verse poem.
from God's own palette -
celestial greens, reds,
ocean blues -
streak across canvas-bark
like mischievous brushstrokes
of an artful nymph.
And that's the poem. Doesn't rhyme. There's no bouncy rhythm or meter to it, but it says a lot in a small space, aside from describing the colors, these colors streak across canvas-bark. Now, I could have said the bark is like a canvas or canvas like bark, but I just use the word canvas-bark as I have hyphenated it canvas-bark. So I created a word out of two different words. I don't think the term canvas-bark has ever been used before, but it seemed to suit what I was trying to get across. And if I had said they streak across the tree bark like it's a canvas one, that's what I'm saying. But I'm saying it much more succinctly. Again, we get back to word economy and at the very end, mischievous brushstrokes. Say that fast twice. You have to slow down to say that, mischievous brushstrokes of an artful nymph. And I said that deliberately to not only slow the reader down and get them to kind of think about what these because it does look like paint splattered all over the trunk, right? It does look like the brushstrokes of a mischievous artful nymph. But I use those words in particular. This is why I said earlier about being very particular. When a poem is writing a poem, they're very particular with their word choice. I deliberately did that A) to slow down the reader and make them kind of just slow down and be kind of thoughtful and reflecting on this image. But those particular words, when your mouth is making those particular words, those sounds, it sounds like a paintbrush splattering on a canvas, mischievous brushstrokes of an artful nymph. That’s an F sound that your lips make in your tongue. That sound almost is that wet sound of the paint slapping on the canvas. And so very particularly, those didn't just come about by accident. I didn't just go, oh, hey, here's a word I can use. I use those for two very specific purposes. And that's why I love poetry. I said a lot in that tiny little space. So just little things like that. And it's not a very long poem. It's about six, seven lines, but it totally gets your point across. Yeah, you introduce kids to that, and like I said, who knows what they'll come up with?
[32:07] Dr. Diane: And on that lovely note, we'll take a quick break, and when we come back, we'll hear more from Matt Forrest Esenwine.
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[33:30] Dr. Diane: Welcome back to the Adventures In Learning podcast. I'm your host, Dr. Diane. And we're back to Talk all things poetry with author Matt Forrest Esenwine. So what is the craziest or most interesting question a kid has ever asked you on an author visit?
[33:45] Matt: The craziest thing. I don't know if I can think of the craziest thing, but I will tell you, one of the most common things they ask me is how long does it take to write a poem? Or how long does it take to write a book? And I tell them, as long as it takes. I mean, you never know. And it's really hard sometimes to figure out when a book started. Flashlight Night, my first book, which I just discovered the other day, Encyclopedia Britannica, has a website, and they do, like, product reviews and book reviews. It's included in a list of eleven children's picture books that inspire the imagination.
[34:35] Dr. Diane: Wow.
[34:36] Matt: And I get shown up in Britannica. Oh, my gosh. So that I know exactly when it started. I was driving home one night from an SCBWI get together just outside of Boston. It's like 10:00 at night. It's dark. All I could see were the headlights and the phrase “flashlight opens up the night” just popped into my head, and I didn't know what to do with it, but it was kind of a cool image. And so I thought about it on the drive home, and when I got home, I wrote it down on the computer, and I spent the rest of the week kind of fleshing out this idea. And so the book wrote itself within probably a week or two. I did some revisions and sent it off to Rebecca Davis at what was Boyds Mills Press. And she called me in January and said they wanted to pick it up.
Other books like Once Upon Another Time, Charles Ghigna had written a couple of lines and didn't know quite what to do with them. This is in 2012, so he wrote these, the first couple of lines that are actually the first few pages of the book, Once Upon Another Time. Those were just some lines that he had written and he didn't know quite what to do with them. And he asked me if I had any thoughts on how we could turn it into a book or have a narrative or anything. So I thought about it for a while, came up with an idea for a narrative, and then I wrote some more lines to follow his in sort of his style, which was not really all that different from mine. We have different styles, but they mesh pretty well. And I was able to write my words in kind of the style that he had already established. And he loved the idea. He said, oh yeah, go ahead and finish up the rough draft if you want, we can start editing it. So I did. So I finished the rough draft and then we went back and forth with revisions, started sending it out, went through 24 rejections before Naomi Krueger at Beaming Books saw it and loved it and turned it into a book. But he had written those lines back in 2012 and the book wasn't published until 2021.
[36:53] Dr. Diane: So nine years.
[36:54] Matt: Nine years, yes. And he didn't even know what he was doing with the lines when he wrote them. So, yeah, you never know how long it's going to take to write a poem or a book. It takes as long as it takes.
[37:10] Dr. Diane: Alright, so just a couple more questions. You've told me a little bit about what's next for you. Is there anything inspiring you to write these days?
[37:22] Matt: Yeah, my kids, certainly. They're always doing things and saying things that kind of pop into my head. And I'll say, well, that's a good idea, or that's an interesting way of looking at things. Maybe it's a TV show that they're watching. It could be anything. And I live out in the woods. We're only literally a mile from downtown, but where we are, it's wooded. There's a trail in back of the house that leads up to the Mount Kearsarge, which is just an inspirational area around here. Donald Hall, the former US poet laureate, he was from just about half an hour up the road. Mount Kearsarge figured into a lot of his poetry and his thought process. So Mount Kearsarge is right in the back of me. There's a brook that borders our property. There's a dirt road on the side of the property. It's a very inspiring sort of place here and we have a lot of well known authors have come from New Hampshire, surprisingly, for a tiny little state, and I just feel inspired just being here and being a small part of it.
[38:46] Dr. Diane: Well, Matt, if people want to follow your book tour and want to follow your writing, where should they go?
[38:53] Matt: Unfortunately for them, I'm everywhere. You might not want me everywhere, but you're going to find me everywhere, whether you like it or not. So I'm on Facebook. Matt Forrest Esenwine. You can find me pretty easily. Matt Forrest Esenwine. I'm on Twitter. Matt Forrest VW for voice work. I started up a Twitter account when I was doing a lot more voice work than I do now. I'm a voice over talent, as you said at the beginning. I spent 25 years in radio, and I do voice over work, car commercials, corporate narrations, on hold messaging. And so Matt Forrest VW is where you'll find me on Twitter and Instagram. But Matt Forrest Esenwine is easy on Facebook and mattforrest.com — 2 rs in Forrest — mattforrest.com is my website. You can find all those links and you can learn more about my school visits. I love doing school visits, either in person or virtually. I even have a Pinterest account, which I have to update. But like I said, I'm everywhere. Do a search for me. You'll find me.
[40:01] Dr. Diane: All right, very last question of the day. What brings you hope?
[40:06] Matt: What brings me hope? Children. And I know that sounds like a cliched kind of answer, and I apologize for making it, because it does sound like, oh, children are our future. But they really are. And we have seen how adults behave. And all I can hope is that the kids get it right. That was why I wrote I Am Today, the picture book that came out earlier this year in March of 2022. I Am Today is about a child who recognizes an injustice and decides that they not only need to do something about it, but they realize they can do something about it. You don't have to wait to be a grownup. You don't have to wait to be the future to make a difference. We adults are always telling kids, you are the future, and they are. But just because you're the future doesn't mean you can't be today. So that was where I Am Today came about. You are the future, but you are today. And really, that really is the answer. It's a cliche answer. But kids, they have the future in their hands, and hopefully they won't screw it up like a lot of us adults are.
[41:24] Dr. Diane: Well, and adults now have A Beginner's Guide to Being Human to help them out as they're talking to their kids as well.
[41:30] Matt: Exactly. I was keeping that in mind as I was writing this. I had not thought of writing a book about emotions and feelings and things like that, and it took me quite a while to figure out how to kind of get into it because I didn't want it to be preachy. I didn't want it to be didactic. I wanted it to be enjoyable, but there was information that I wanted to get across. And I felt like helping kids to kind of see these concepts through their own eyes and see these concepts in action. In a normal kind of day that a child would experience at home, going to school, coming home, hanging out at a playground or hanging out at amusement park or something at a ball game, all these things that kids recognize and they can see these concepts in action. I felt like that's the best way to go about this, and hopefully the kids will get something from it.
[42:36] Dr. Diane: Well, and it's very powerful. And if you're listening to the podcast, I do have a copy that I will be giving away, and so there will be directions in the show notes on how you might win a copy of Matt Forrest Esenwine's brand new book, A Beginner's Guide to Being Human. Matt, thank you so much for being on the show today. It's been a delight to share your adventure in learning, and I look forward to having you back.
[42:56] Matt: Oh, thank you. I'll look forward to being back. I really appreciate it. You do a great job here. I hope more and more people start watching the podcast.
[43:07] Dr. Diane: Well, thank you.
[43:08] Matt: You're doing a great job.
[43:09] Dr. Diane: It's a joy to talk to you, and I've appreciated having you on today.
[43:13] Matt: Same here. Thank you so much.
[43:17] Dr. Diane: You've been listening to the Adventures In Learning podcast with your host, Dr. Diane. If you like what you're hearing, please subscribe, download and let us know what you think, and please tell a friend. If you want the full show notes and the pictures, please go to drdianeadventures.com. We look forward to you joining us on our next adventure.