Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Q&A with Matt Forrest Esenwine




Matt Forrest Esenwine is the author of the new children's picture book A Beginner's Guide to Being Human. His other books include Flashlight Night. He lives in Warner, New Hampshire.


Q: What inspired you to write A Beginner's Guide to Being Human?


A: My editor! I had submitted a completely different manuscript to Naomi Krueger at Beaming Books (my editor for Once Upon Another Time) and although she liked it, she didn't feel it was a good fit for her list.


But she said she'd had an idea for a different book - about introducing human emotions and feelings - and wondered if I'd be interested in writing that, using a similar style of writing and a similar title. I said, sure! There was no guarantee that what I'd write would be accepted, but fortunately it was.


Q: What do you think André Ceolin's illustrations add to the story?


A: I think he not only helps flesh out the loose narrative I’d had in mind - that of several children living their different lives within the structure of one day - but his simple style lends itself to showing the myriad emotions the various kids are experiencing. 


There aren’t all sorts of wild illustrations with crazy colors and lots of stuff going on; the focus is on the kids, how they are feeling, and how they react to their situations.


Q: What do you hope kids take away from the book?


A: I hope they understand life a little better. And I know that sounds like a tall order, but it's hard even for adults to wrestle with things like compassion, empathy, and forgiveness, so if young readers can come away with recognizing the importance of simple little acts of kindness and self-control, they can use the examples in the book as a springboard for incorporating these in their own lives.


Q: How was the book's title chosen, and what does it signify for you?


A: Well, as I mentioned earlier, the title was based on the title of the initial manuscript I'd submitted to Naomi, which was A Beginner's Guide to Stargazing. Since this book was going to be about “being human,” the title more or less wrote itself!


And it's a good title, too, because it really IS a beginner's guide, introducing concepts like compassion, forgiveness, and love in a creative, quiet sort of way.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I have at least two other books coming out next year so I'm preparing to get those ready for launch, and I'm also working on a couple of picture book manuscripts, a couple of poetry projects, and a middle grade verse novel that is in the very early stages.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: A lesson for new writers who may just be starting their publishing journey,: you never know where a manuscript might take you, nor do you know what may come of it.


My manuscript for A Beginner's Guide to Stargazing started out as a poem which didn't make it into the poetry anthology for which it had been written, so I revised it into a picture book manuscript.


I then sent the manuscript to several editors, including Naomi, who picked up the premise of a “beginner's guide” but didn't acquire the manuscript and instead asked me to write a different manuscript.


So I had to re-title my stargazing manuscript, which turned into The Thing to Remember about Stargazing. I then sold THAT manuscript, and it's coming out from a different publisher next fall! So hold onto those manuscripts and don't be afraid to revise or recycle - one never knows how the publishing waters will flow or where they might lead!


--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Matt Forrest Esenwine.

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