Friday, December 3, 2021

"I Am Today" Blog Tour - 5th Stop

  Welcome to the 5th Stop on the "I Am Today" Blog Tour!  
Come join me as I chat with our amazing author,
Matt Forrest Esenwine 

Let's start out with the trailer that Matt sent me. You can find it on YouTube here.

Grown-ups say I am the Future.

But what if a child does not want to wait for the future
to stand up for what he/she believes in?
Matt Forrest Esenwine explores this  thought in a powerful children's book
that sends a strong message.


Matt, the message in your book will to both children and adults. It brings to mind that every child is unique and has a VOICE. Hopefully, it will find cozy corners in bedrooms and reading/writing stations in classrooms. There teachers, librarians, and parents will offer read alouds, discussions, and prompts to capture what it means for each child to make a difference in this world. The book offers so many possibilities for children to explore. Perhaps, they will reach beyond their surroundings to offer new solutions for environmental issues, or become leaders, service providers, or on a more personal level speak on issues dealing with kindness, friendship, and sharing. Thank you for responding to the questions I pose. 
1. Think back to the very first thought you had on writing this book. Did your own children influence your choice of topic? Did you envision this book as one that plants the seeds for children being change agents?

Last year we were in the middle of the pandemic - school was at home, playdates were via computer, vacations were halted - and many kids, including my own, felt they had no control over what was happening. Heck, we adults felt that way! So I decided I wanted to write something to help kids feel more empowered, to give them some strength or hope, and show them they had the power to make changes in a grown-up world. But how to do that? 

My first step was rather odd, to be honest: I began by trying to come up with a completely non-grammatical title. Really! I wanted something that would catch potential readers and buyers off-guard, something that made them stop and think. So I thought about it quite a bit. The phrase "I am today" eventually popped into my head, and I liked it! As I thought more about the possibilities with that title, it occurred to me that kids are always being told they are "the Future." But what if a child doesn't want to wait?
2. Can you please ask your illustrator what is the significance of the book cover drawing where the child is upside down?

I have never met the illustrator, as she was hired by the publisher (which is the norm in traditional publishing), but I can try to contact her. I would think she was striving for the symbolism of reflection, of one looking at oneself and imagining possibilities, of what lies ahead - especially since the plot of the book involves not only her future but the future of the ocean.

3. What prompted the origami piece at the end of the book? Do you have a picture of your father creating origami pieces?

Isn't that cool?? That was completely unexpected and came from the illustrator. It's interesting to note that most of my books, like FLASHLIGHT NIGHT, ONCE UPON ANOTHER TIME, and now I AM TODAY, lack a traditional narrative such as, "First Billy did this, then Sally said this, then they went someplace," etc. I prefer a more poetic form of writing, creating what I call a story skeleton - a framework by which an illustrator can tell their own story - in congruence to mine.

You'll recall that in FLASHLIGHT NIGHT, three kids go on an adventure in which everything takes place within the beam of the flashlight. However, in my text, I don't mention kids, I don't give names, I don't say anything about a tiger or a Kraken or a pirate or a hot air balloon - and I certainly don't say anything about the story taking place within the beam of the flashlight. That was all created by illustrator Fred Koehler. Likewise, the plot of I AM TODAY is about a little girl who notices that sea turtles are in danger from pollution from a nearby factory and manages to rally the town to clean up the water and save the turtles...however, NONE of that is in my text! The entire narrative of the book was created by illustrator Patricia Pessoa, based on inspiration she gleaned from my text. And I have more books coming out over the next couple of years that are written in this same way!

4. How did your children react to the book about being a change agent?

I don't think they recognized it as a 'change agent,' necessarily, but I asked them what they thought and they both were happy that the little girl was able to succeed at what she set out to do - and really, that's what I want kids to get from it, that they do have the power to make change and don't need to wait. My son knows this first-hand because he actually helped the book's publisher a couple of years ago, back when we were putting out DON'T ASK A DINOSAUR! We had all received the final .pdf of the book right before it went to print, so I showed it to him (dino expert that he is), and he found not one, but TWO mistakes - which we quickly corrected before sending it off to be printed and bound. Not many 7-year-olds can say they saved a book, but he can! And I've been telling students that story during school visits ever since DINOSAUR came out, so I'm glad I now have a book that spotlights another way kids have the ability to effect change.

5. In our present world of ifs, this book is a powerful one for children. I think this can be used by educators, librarians, and parents of children from nursery to 8th grade. Did you have a specific age audience in mind when you wrote the book?

I was thinking of my daughter while writing this, so I'd say elementary-age kids, first and foremost. Children are always my primary audience, but adults are the secondary audience; they are the ones buying, gifting, and reading the stories to the kids, so adults are always at the top of my mind, as well. I want readers, no matter how old they are, to not get bored or tired of reading my books. I told folks back when FLASHLIGHT NIGHT first came out that my greatest fear was that someone would be asked to read one of my books and they would react with, "Oh, no, not THAT one again!" Ha! But I certainly hope that schools and libraries will recognize that this book could be more than simply an enjoyable book to read and might actually help and encourage kids who are trying to find their way through this world.

  Sierra Reads  and Questions

Providing children with read alouds and mentor text at a very young age allows them to not only be delighted by the act of reading but become lifelong readers. My four-year-old granddaughter has been a fan of reading since she was younger. She loves to listen to a book being read and then spend time alone looking at the illustrations. 

"Sierra, I have a surprise for you. The author of Flashlight Night sent me a new book. Would you like to read it with me before nap time?"

"Grandma, why is the book upside down?"  - " That is a reflection in the water, Sierra."

We begin to read and Sierra quietly listened, intrigued by the storyline. Being observant she noticed the turtle in the water right away. As we moved through the book, she learned that the main character's family taught the little girl to be polite and share with others, concepts she knew about. It was on the next page that she paused and asked another question. "What does it mean to take a stand?" She carefully listened to my response and understood. 

Someday I'll be the Future. But right now...

Sierra enjoyed the book and decided to reread it before taking her nap. As I peeked inside the room after I left, I saw her quietly looking through the book again. 
Matt, from this little toddler you get a thumbs up!

   Give Away  

POW! Kids Books is offering a copy of Matt's book, I Am Today, to a lucky responder. Please leave a comment below the blog post in the comment section. A winner will be chosen Sunday after dinner. If you see the promotion on social media come back to the blog post to respond. Good Luck! Sierra and I hope you enjoy the book as much as we do. 

 Thank you:  

Thank you, Matt Forrest Esenwine, for writing this book, I am Today, with the intent of "empowering children so that with strength or hope they have the power to make changes in a grown-up world". 
Thank you Patricia Pessoa for illustrating the book with images that are delightful and beautifully rendered to enhance the story content. 
Thank you to Shannon Krieg at POW! Kids Books for providing a raffle for this stop on the blog post. 

 Please Visit Matt Forrest Esenwine 

  Thoughts from the Blogger 

Please heed the words I speak.
Children are unique,
strong thought makers,
future movers and shakers
but for now learners
and little page-turners.
Give them words to speak.
Books to read each week
so in the future, they will be
proud and strong. Do you agree?
©CV, 2021

Matt's blog post today is dedicated to his blog tour stops. Here goes mine into the social media world. I am linking up with, Michelle Kogan, the host of Poetry Friday this week. Michelle is holidazing us with her poems and illustrations.

Thursday, December 2, 2021

Waiting with a Side of Hope-SJT

It is December 1st, the start of the holiday season. There is a sense of urgency in the air - a rush to be ready. We prepare. We shop for gifts. We cook and bake but do we pause to understand the real meaning of the season? Do we honor this time of expectancy and preparation?


As I prepare for the celebration of Christmas, I must admit that I, too, have been caught up in the rush to prepare for a Hallmark Christmas. I am grateful that Chris Margocs, the host of our Spiritual Journey Thursday community this month chose a one word prompt, "waiting" with a side of "hope". This was the nudge I needed to slow down and ponder the meaning of the Christmas season. 

To prepare for today's blog, I have read inspirational excerpts, quotes, and listened to songs. I have a strong desire to change my rushed pattern to get my new house ready for Christmas. Two quotes become my guide through the Advent season.

"Advent teaches us that waiting is a gift, for this season of waiting yields amongst many other things the gift of slowing down and perseverance."

"The waiting of Advent teaches us to live in increments, in small pieces rather than large chunks. Waiting also teaches us to measure our progress slowly." - Holly Whitcomb

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Grateful for Treasured Moments

 We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.” -Thornton Wilder

Treasured moments are small ones

filled with thanks for life and living. 

Within these small moments, 

families come together, 

snap photos for posterity, 

and mindfully enjoy the present. 

©CV, 2021


Pausing-in-prayer before eating allows us time to give thanks and open our hearts to what we are grateful for in life. 



While Thanksgiving 2021 brought only part of the family together, it was a delicious, memorable meal that was a welcomed break from my husband's rigorous medically-prescribed diet plan. This was our pre-party for a weekend event that would bring a  surprise twist for our family gathering.

A Few Days Later:

Imagine our surprise when we awoke on Saturday morning and the turkey did not thaw out in time. EEK! Plan B was put into action. My husband drove to the local grocery store to search for a fresh turnkey that would feed seven. Upon entering the house, he excitedly told his tale. 

"There were at least 75 frozen turkeys and only one fresh one in the bin. The other good news is I only paid $3.60 for this 17 1/2-pound fresh turkey!"

A phone call let us know my daughter, son-in-law, and grandgirls would arrive.  The call was interrupted by an excited 4-year-old who could not wait to tell her news to Grandpa.

"Grandpa, we bought a chocolate cake for Grandma."

A few hours later, two pretty boxes came into the house. I could hardly wait to see what was inside. When it was time for dessert, the boxes were opened. Sierra decided to add four colorful candles to the chocolate cake. These were placed next to the birthday girl sign. 

"Mommy loves red," Sierra said.

I replied, "Did you know that I love red too?"

Aurora wanted to be raised higher to see the "happy" (short for a happy birthday party). The girls and I squished on one swivel chair for the traditional family event. An off-key tune was sung (so says my husband) and I along with my two little loveys blew out the candles. A bite into the chocolate cake brought me to another happy place. The yumminess of the chocolate and the creme layers was just too delicious for words!


The events of Thanksgiving 2021 seemed to erase the sting of last year's pandemic life and channel a new feeling of being blessed. 



a holiday

to gather together

with good food

family conversation


©CV, 2021

Note: The above poem uses a hay(na)ku and reverse hay(na)ku  poetic form. A hay(na)ku has lines of one, two, and three word(s) for lines one, two, and three respectively. A reverse hay(na)ku reverses the order.


The Power of Gratitude:

November ends a month of gratitude but in reality, it does not stop on November 30th. Let us all remember this. 

Thank you to my friend, Laurie Saurman, who shared this graphic on gratitude at her Facebook post.


Thank you to my son, Derek Varsalona, for taking this beautiful photo in West Virginia while on a mini-vacation with his sister, brother-in-law, and little nieces.

weekend plans develop
inspiring an
©CVarsalona, 2021 & Photo by ©Derek Varsalona, 2021, West Virginia


Gratitude for the weekly Slice of Life offered by Two Writing Teachers.

Friday, November 26, 2021

In Praise of Autumn

With gratitude for a warm-weathered Thanksgiving, wonderful birthday joy, and family and friend correspondence, I invite you to celebrate Autumn one more time, with the final edition of the Bedecked In Autumn Gallery of Artistic Expressions.

Oh, Autumn, on wings of colored hues
you flutter in and sweep the sky in glory,
dance the quickstep with falling leaves,
and toss beachside shores with sunlit sparkles.

Bedecked in your jewels of the season,
you slowly transform sunwashed spaces
into havens of kaleidoscope magic.
Oh, Autumn, your harlequin colors leave me breathless.

(Thank you author Lester Laminack for sharing the beauty of Autumn through photography.)

When your time of cinnamon and brown sugar landscapes
passes into the cool crispness of November winds,
gratitude for your celebration of Earth remains.
Praise to you, Autumn, for ushering in cheerful holiday joy.
©CV, draft 2021

(Thank you Poetry Sisters for this month's November challenge, Ode to Autumn. #PoetryPals)


Autumn, you inspire artists, like Michelle Kogan, to paint and write with passion.

Season Changes Breath...

Mid autumn pause
invites wandering and wondering...
Mid Autumn pause
celebrates earth's vibrance because
her dowries fill your hunger
and spread brilliance round and under-
Mid autumn pause...

© 2021 Michelle Kogan


Autumn, you influenced poets, like Irene Latham, to create poetry prompted by masters' artwork

The above nature photography and image poems will be embedded in the first edition of  Bedecked In Autumn Gallery.

Michelle Kogan
Lester Laminack
Irene Latham

Please visit previous autumn galleries of artistic expressions that integrate the arts, technology, and poetry. Click on the titles of the underlined galleries. 

2014  -   Finding Fall
2015   -  Autumn's Palette
2016   -  Autumn Venture
2017   -  Autumn Ablaize 
2020 -  Abundant Autumn

Happy Thanksgiving Weekend

Thank you teacher-poet, Ruth Hersey, from Haiti for hosting the Poetry Friday Roundup this week. Ruth shares her odes, one about Haiti, and a gratiku. 

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

A Slice of Bedecked In Autumn Gallery

Autumn caresses my thoughts and feelings, even when temperatures fluctuate and frost leaves its residue on plants. It is a season of light and shadows, warmth and chill, activity and gratitude. With that in mind, I invite you to take a gallery walk with me through the following, a second edition of the Bedecked In Autumn Gallery of Artistic Expressions that blends art, technology, poetry, and music from around the globe. 


and fall arrives!

Autumn shares its limelight with three months. Early September opens the season with single leaf deposits that whisper hello. 

 Photo by Ramona Behnke, 2021 Washington

"And the yellow sunflower by the brook, in autumn beauty stood." 
-William Cullen Bryant
Photo by Fran Haley (Fran's image poems can be found in the first edition of the gallery here.

 October whisks in and slowly paints the landscape in burnt orange and golden shades for all to admire. Shall we dance in glee?

Chris Margocs from Texas shares a ritual of "just being".

October walks offer quiet time to be inspired by the beauty of the earth,
as seen through the eyes ofTerje Akke (Estonia, 2021).

October closes on a spooky note. 


November slips into view with:

"In November, the trees are standing sticks and bones. Without their leaves, how lovely they are, spreading their arms like dancer. They know it is time to be still." - Cynthia Rylant

Pause for a brief interlude of your gallery walk to listen to Beautiful Autumn Songs here.

Not all that glitters is gold.


Part of my heart remains in Long Island where fall watching for me was either at a beach or park. Thanks to Laura Toledo, educator photographer, I am able to see a new place that I never visited, Connectquot State Park

Ramona Behnke
Alice Garza
Fran Haley
Kevin Hodgson
Robert Hamera
Carol Varsalona
Jackie Yun
I hope you enjoyed the contributions shared by some of my slicer and Facebook friends. 


Please visit previous autumn galleries of artistic expressions that integrate the arts, technology, and poetry. Click on the titles of the underlined galleries. 

2014  -   Finding Fall
2015   -  Autumn's Palette
2016   -  Autumn Venture
2017   -  Autumn Ablaize 
2020 -  Abundant Autumn

Thank you for joining me on this gallery walk of the 2021 Autumn season. May you continue to fill your heart with gratitude for the beauty of the earth.



Please leave a comment below or on social media so that the joy of this gallery and the work of all those who contributed can be spread throughout the world. Thank you to Aussie poet Alan J. Wright who commented on the first edition of Bedecked In Autumn Gallery with a nod to Keats.

The brilliant canvas of colour, images, and words brought the words of Keats flowing back into my conscious mind, "Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness.'"


I thank Two Writing Teachers for Slice of Life Tuesday where a community of educational writers shares small moments of quiet inspiration.

Please join me on Friday for the final installment of the Bedecked in Autumn Gallery.

fall's quiet moments
strewn with blankets of leaves
earth seeks repose
©CVarsalona, 2021
Photo by Terje Akke, 2021