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The Picture Book Buzz

The Picture Book Buzz - Interview with Seven Poets of Night Wishes

“I’ve always maintained that more can be said or felt

in eight or 10 lines than sometimes in an entire novel.”

~ Lee Bennett Hopkins

The award-winning poet and anthologist, Lee Bennett Hopkins, who published more than 100 anthologies of poetry for children over a half-century, compiled this anthology of poems prior to his death on August 8, 2019. For an extra special treat, see poet Renee M. LaTulippe's 2013 interview with Lee Bennet Hopkins (

Today, I get the honor to talk with seven of the poets who contributed to this stunning book of bedtime poetry about crafting their poems, working with Lee, and a little bit about themselves and what's coming next for each of them.

This new poetry anthology, Night Wishes, releases TOMORROW!

Welcome Everyone!

Tell us a little about yourself. (Where/when do you write or draw? How long have you been writing? Do you prefer poetry anthology/books or picture books? What is your favorite poem form to write?)

Matt Forrest Esenwine - Once Upon Another Time (3/2/2021) - As a stay-at-home dad, I write whenever I have the opportunity – with the kids home for summer and now remote-learning, I have very little time to do so, so I squeeze it in wherever I can.

I’ve been writing for most of my life and can recall writing some songs and poems as far back as when I was 8 or 10! I also wrote a lot of skits and stories that I would write as scripts and then record onto my father’s Panasonic cassette recorder, voices, sound effects, and all! So looking back, it’s not surprise I ended up in theatre, radio, and on-camera… eventually finding my way into children’s lit. Renee certainly has more theatre experience than I do, but I find it interesting that both of us have a solid acting background!

As far as what I like to write, I love poetry – it’s such a beautifully compact way of creating a scene or emotional impact. And while there are many poetic forms out there, I do prefer structured rhyming verse over free verse, at least when it comes to my children’s poetry. I’ve had a number of free verse poems published over the years in journals or anthologies, but those weren’t geared to kids.

Renee M. La Tulippe Limelight: Theater Poems to Perform, forthcoming from Charlesbridge, date TBA; and a poem picture book, (further info TBA) - I wrote my first poem when I was seven and just kept going through the first couple years of college, where the joy of poetry was completely beaten out of me. Ha! True story.

After that I stopped writing for about twenty years until I was asked to write some poems for preschoolers for a freelance client. The result of that was 40+ poems in an independently published collection (Lizard Lou) and my entry, quite by chance, into the world of children’s literature. That was in 2012, which is when I also began my children’s poetry blog, Since then I’ve been fortunate to have poems published in a dozen or so poetry anthologies and to have sold a couple of my own manuscripts. While my forthcoming Limelight poetry collection is a veritable who’s who of poetic forms from pantoums and triolets to roundels and echo verse, my true love is free verse and that’s what I am mostly writing nowadays.

And as for types of books, my two absolute favorites are poem picture books and verse novels, and those are the areas in which I am currently focusing my efforts. Over the summer I began getting up at 6:30am just to have a little peace to write in before the kids wake up, and I have loved it! I’m not sure if I can sustain that through the dark morning hours of winter, so I may have to go back to writing in the wee hours for the duration. Either way, between working from home and wrangling all the kids’ activities and school, it’s impossible for me to have set writing hours—like so many parents, I grab them when I can!

Rebecca Kai Dotlich Little Scoot (5/4/2021) -

My best time to write is early morning with a cup of coffee and always in my writing room. I have been writing all of my life, since I was about 11 years old. I kept diaries, wrote poems and songs, and “made” a poetry book and stapled it together, even writing a dedication to my parents inside.

I’ve been publishing poetry and picture books for about 30 years. My very deepest love is poetry and included in that is lyrical language and often rhyme, so my heart is in both poetry and picture books.

Eileen SpinelliOne Earth (3/3/2020) - When I was six, a wonderful librarian stepped into my life. Her name was Miss Armstrong and it was because of her that I fell in love with books, with words. It was because of her I dared to dream that someday I might become a writer.

When I was in second grade, we were given a writing assignment. The topic was food. I wrote a composition about a princess and prince who married. I described their wedding feast: macaroni and cheese, pickles, raisin toast, cupcakes and cherry Jello. Alas, Miss Campbell read my piece aloud, calling it the worst in the stack. And I've been writing ever since. Note: Thankfully, in today's world a teacher would be reprimanded for such an unkind remark.

I am lucky enough to have an office--"a room of one's own"--with a comfy writing chair, lots of light and birds feeding just outside my window. [How horrible. I am glad you didn't believe her!]

Irene Latham This Poem is a Nest (9/8/2020) – My first poems were written when I was about five years old, and they were love poems for my mom. I continued to write throughout my childhood, but I'm a shy person, and I never really thought about getting published – until early parenthood (3 boys!), when I desperately needed something that was just mine. It was at that point that I started submitting work to poetry contests, and eventually to editors and agents.

Parenthood taught me to write in whatever small snatches of time were available, like in the carpool line, or during the 15 minutes between kid activities or homemaking tasks.

Joyce Sidman Hello, Earth! Poems to Our Planet (2/9/2021) - I’ve been writing as long as I remember. Like Rebecca, I’ve been publishing poetry and books for about 30 years and do my best creative work in the mornings (with my dog snoozing in the corner).

I love poetry because the comparison and connection of its metaphors help me understand the world. Poetry anthologies are wonderful, but I also love picture books, which have more narrative flow and are fun to read with young children.

Deborah Ruddell – I’m an introvert, an identical twin, and a morning person. One of my favorite poetic forms is the mask poem — just what Lee Bennett Hopkins requested for Night Wishes.

*[Note: "A mask poem is one that is written from the point of view of an animal, an object, or even a person (or Muppet) that's not you. They let kids inside the imagined mind of another kind of being." - Laura Purdie Salas]*

What is something no one (or few) knows about you?

Matt Forrest Esenwine - This is sort of a compound answer, if that makes sense. I think people who know me personally but don’t know much about my writing career are surprised at what I’ve accomplished: books and poetry collections and podcasts and blogs and reviews and awards and such. But folks who know me through my writing seem to be surprised at how much of a backwoods hick I am, ha! I cut & split our firewood, have a sizeable garden (63 tomato plants in addition to everything else), I take my kids fishing…we live in a very rural area with a brook in back of us, a hayfield and pond across from us, a dirt road next to us, and Mt. Kearsarge behind us! [Honestly, sounds like a slice of heaven.]

Renee M. La Tulippe – I have sung at Carnegie Hall in New York City. Not alone, mind you—my voice ain’t that great. But as a soprano in the 200-member Oratorio Society of New York, I did several concerts there in the late 1980s/early 1990s and it was always such a thrilling, immersive experience with the full orchestra and soloists. The highlights for me were doing Handel’s Messiah every Christmas and singing the Carmina Burana (O Fortuna! Velut luna, statu variabilis!). [Okay, just WOW!]

Also: I hate jeans with the heat of a thousand suns. Seriously, why are they a thing?!

Rebecca Kai Dotlich – Possibly that I have a quirky, leaning toward wacky, sense of humor. And that I am obsessed with colors and polka dots, and keys and marbles and maps. And that I love to dance, although not very good. I can be serious to a fault, yet I am often just plain silly.

And also: I don’t like chocolate but I could eat nachos and pasta every day forever. [I guess the pasta makes up for not liking chocolate . . .]

Eileen Spinelli – That I am camera shy. That my ears are not pierced. I wear clip-ons. That I love crows. [I think my crows are camera shy, too; they always flit off when I bring out the camera.]

Irene Latham – Messy floors (or surfaces) stress me out. I like floors clean and vacuumed, and I prefer things to be put away in drawers or closets, out of sight. Meanwhile, my husband needs to see everything on his desk or wherever. Argh! We've been married for nearly 30 years, so I guess we've figured out a way to make it work. :) [Congratulations!]

Joyce Sidman – I love cleaning closets. Honestly, it reminds me of revising a poem. What do I want to keep? What can I get rid of? How do I arrange it in the best possible way? [Fun idea!]

Deborah Ruddell – When I was 16, I saw the Beatles live, in a stadium full of screaming kids. The tickets were $5, I wore a flowered mini-skirted suit, the Beatles sang 10 songs in a rainstorm, and I will never, ever forget it. [Wow! What an experience.]

Now that we know a little bit about each of you, how did you become involved with Night Wishes? Did you have any input into the item you wrote about for your poem or was it assigned to you? How about the specific form of your poem? (If you contributed to School People, Construction People, or another of Lee’s anthologies, was this experience any different?)

Matt Forrest Esenwine (Pillow) - When Lee would put together an anthology, he would contact those he wished to contribute and asked us directly if we would write a poem about a specific subject. Rarely would one ever get the opportunity to pick the topic. This is because he had an organization to the book in mind, a structure, and already knew what he wanted to include. And let’s face it, anthologies are a massive team effort with the anthologist as the coach, so he needed to have as much control over the process as possible.

(Text © Matt Forrest Esenwine, 2020. Image © Jen Corace, 2020.)

But he always encouraged us to be creative and take as long as we needed (although we really couldn’t take all the time we needed, but it was a nice gesture, ha!). If he liked a poem, he’d tell you – but if he didn’t, he’d expect you to rework it until it was perfect. And he would often let contributors know they could bow out if they wanted – but I can’t imagine anyone ever doing so to Lee!

My poem for Construction People took a while to research because I needed to write a poem about a specific subject: the construction project manager. I also needed time to figure out what I wanted to say and how to say it (as it turned out, a villanelle was the perfect poetic form, in both style and structure). For School People, I needed to write about the bus driver, but I at least knew what bus drivers did, so it was easier to pull together! For Night Wishes, my immediate thought was that the pillow would be saying something bland and trite like, “Come, let’s rest, you’ve had a long day, blah, blah…” And I immediately eschewed that approach because it was, indeed, bland and trite – completely expected and overdone. Then I realized that the child’s head would be on the pillow, so the pillow would likely be ready to take off on a dreaming adventure!

So rather than a quiet, “Yawn, let’s fall asleep” kind of poem, mine is full of excitement, eagerness, and energy, with the final line, “Let’s GO!”

Renee M. La Tulippe (Night-Light) – Contributing to Lee’s anthologies was by invitation only, and this was my experience in the three LBH books I wrote poems for (School People, Night Wishes, and another that may/may not be published). In all cases, I was assigned a topic to write about and given free reign as to form. That said, Lee was a wonderful and exacting editor, and he knew what he was looking for, which means I went through quite a few revisions before he accepted a poem as “done”! My poetry tends toward older kids, so writing for the younger set is a real challenge for me—I struggled mightily with all the poems I wrote for Lee! I even not-so-subtly hinted that he might want to ask someone else to write them, but he was always patient and encouraging. He pushed me in all the best ways.

Example: my first draft of “Night Light” was a tortured roundel, to which he responded along the lines of “You’re waxing poetic—what night light do you know talks like that?” Hahaha. Loved that man!

Text © Renee LaTulippe, 2020. Image © Jen Corace, 2020.

Text © Rebecca Kai Dotlich, 2020. Image © Jen Corace, 2020.

Rebecca Kai Dotlich (Bed and Bed Again) – Lee often assigned me to write the beginning and ending poem, which he referred to as the bookend poems. Both my process and the experience was almost the same every time. We worked as a team. I’d write a draft, and he’d either praise it and accept it, or he’d make suggestions for revision. Often I’d make those changes, and just as often we’d happily argue (which we loved to do) over the reason (or not) a word or line needed to stay. He knew how he wanted the book (each book) to flow, and yet he respected the art of the poem, and respected my reasons for either agreeing to his suggestions, or not. He found great joy in putting together his anthologies. [Sounds like you had a great relationship.]

Eileen Spinelli (Cat) – I think Lee assigned my topic but he didn't request a specific form.

Text © Eileen Spinelli, 2020. Image © Jen Corace, 2020.

Text © Irene Latham, 2020. Image © Jen Corace, 2020.

Irene Latham (Dog) – Lee sent an email inviting me to write about a dog. I love dogs – we have an Aussie named Rosie – so I was delighted to do so. We ran into a few bumps during the process when I was attached to a line in the poem that Lee wasn't fond of. We could not agree! Ultimately I realized it's just one poem, and it's Lee's book, so just cut the line. My pride/ego was making it harder than it needed to be!

Joyce Sidman (Book) – Lee wrote to ask me if I would participate, and more specifically, if I would write about a book. What poet wouldn’t write a poem about a book? Especially a book that could speak. I immediately answered in the affirmative. The form I chose arose from the lullaby-like purpose of the poem.

Text © Joyce Sidman, 2020. Image © Jen Corace, 2020.

Text © Deborah Ruddell, 2020. Image © Jen Corace, 2020.

Deborah Ruddell (Stars) – Lee gave me the subject and explained that I should write in the subject’s voice. I loved the subject and the form, so I submitted two days later, and he accepted. Hooray!

Lee definitely knew what he was doing. He organized and orchestrated all your parts into a beautiful book. Do you have a memory, or comment, about Lee that you would like to share?

Matt Forrest Esenwine - Most folks who knew Lee would say if there’s one thing they remembered about him would be his laugh – where he’d throw his head back and just let out a loud hoot! I had gone through 4 different poems for a separate anthology he was doing about math, and nothing I wrote he liked…it had to be about fractions, but he wasn’t impressed with any of my efforts. Finally, on my fifth try, he told me I had nailed it…whew! Fast forward a few months later, we were chatting on the telephone and the subject of the math book came up, and I told him that if I ever had to write another poems about fractions, I was going to write about the famous anthologist who only liked one-fifth of my poems. He let out a loud hoot, and I knew I’d made him happy! [Sounds like you two had a similar sense of humor and worked well together.]

Renee M. La Tulippe – Just to say that all the good stuff people have ever said about him is all true. And beyond that, he was a true mentor and friend. We had so much fun doing all our videos together for No Water River. He’d go off on fascinating tangents, and when we were done with the “business” part of our calls, we’d have another good half hour of just chatting and gossiping and laughing. I miss him. <3

[Check out Renee's amazing tribute post to Lee -]

Rebecca Kai Dotlich – Where would I begin. I miss him every day. He had a need for love and acceptance and he was a bit of a showoff. Those who really knew him and loved him will nod with a smile. I admired him so much. He could also be bossy and he knew it. He laughed at himself as much as he laughed with the world. He was such a hard worker and dedicated to poetry for children. He believed some of the best poems ever written were poems for children, and that the standard for sophistication, lyrical language, wisdom and beauty should be even higher than poetry written for adults. We were the best of friends and my heart isn’t the same without him in this world. [What a gift to have had such a friendship.]

Eileen Spinelli – Years ago, Lee was my tablemate at a conference dinner. He and I got to talking about birthdays. And how we liked them. You wouldn't hear us saying we didn't celebrate after a certain age. Or telling our families: no gifts. Ha! From then on Lee and I sent each other birthday cards every year. [What a pair! *smiling*]

Irene Latham – I only ever spoke to Lee on the phone one time, and that was when I was awarded the ILA-Lee Bennett Hopkins Promising Poet Award (2016). He was giddy about the news, and irritated that the powers that be were requiring we keep mum for about a month. He wanted to share RIGHT NOW. Lee had a special brand of enthusiasm, and I'm so grateful to have experienced that with him. [Such a treat! And Congratulations.]

Joyce Sidman – I remember Lee being vehemently opposed to the “picking apart” of poetry. He felt one should let poetry speak for itself, instead of “explaining” it or pointing out poetic devices. “Just read it,” he said, “then go on to math.” [*chuckling*]

Deborah Ruddell – Lee opened many doors for me, for which I will always be grateful. A poet with a twinkle in his eye! [A great description!]

Lee was definitely an amazing friend, mentor, teacher, and poet. Looking back, who was a favorite/special author, illustrator, and/or favorite book as a child?

Matt Forrest Esenwine - My favorite book as a child was an abridged copy of The Secret Place and Other Poems by Dorothy Aldis. I can look back to that book as being the genesis for my love of poetry. As I got older, I had all sorts of unusual favorite books, from Johnny Gruelle’s The Land of Noom, the Hardy Boys, Isaac Asimov, and classic poets from Shakespeare to Poe.

Renee M. La Tulippe – I’ve never been one to have “favorite” anything since my tastes are eclectic and changeable. The only picture books I remember from childhood are the Little Golden Books The Poky Little Puppy and Three Little Kittens, but I did have this wonderful collection of fairy tales that I re-read continuously well into high school. It was a couple thousand pages with a swirly red-and-shiny-gold hardcover and I remember being so upset when I left it out in the rain and it warped. I was also quite the expert on the Little House series. In high school, I started reading more poetry, particularly Sylvia Plath, who made quite an impact on me. (I wrote more about her here, if you’re interested.)

Rebecca Kai Dotlich – When I was young we had Golden Books from the A&P grocery. I especially loved The Gingerbread Man. A few years later, I was reading books about Clara Barton, Florence Nightingale and Helen Keller, Nancy Drew mysteries and Pippi Longstocking. I always had a book or two under the Christmas tree, and they were some of my favorite presents. I also loved to read the books my big brother had, like Hardy Boys and his oversized atlas, and space and archaeology books. He also had a shelf of small orange biographies that were well loved by us both.

Eileen Spinelli – Books were expensive when I was growing up. The only books my parents could afford were 25 cent Golden books. On my 12th birthday a neighbor gave me Thee Hannah by Marguerite de Angeli. A real book. Hard back. Beautifully illustrated. It is still one of my treasures.

When I grew up and started publishing I learned that Ms. de Angeli lived in nearby Philadelphia, PA. She was in her late 80's then. I wrote to her and asked if I could take her to lunch. To my great and happy surprise, she said yes. So, I had lunch with my favorite author where she signed. my much-read, much-loved copy of Thee Hannah.

Irene Latham – My most favorite picture book from childhood is Horton Hatches the Egg by Dr. Seuss. I still have my childhood copy, with my name (scribbled by me) emblazoned on the cover. I carry in my heart the messages from that book-- about faithfulness, adventure, and the possibility of unexpected magic/miracles.

Joyce Sidman –The three children’s books I still have from my childhood are: Mud Pies and Other Recipes by Marjorie Winslow (I loved the tongue-in-cheek voice of this book, and I also loved playing outside), The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes by DuBose Heyward (Oh my gosh, those little pairs of bunnies that did their chores so faithfully! And their courageous, feminist mom!), and The Bat-Poet by Randall Jarrell (a truly formative book for me, as its hero was a bat who observed nature and wrote poetry about it). [I'm sensing a theme here.]

Deborah Ruddell – My twin sister and I loved the Little Golden Book, Lucky Mrs. Ticklefeather by Dorothy Kunhardt, illustrated by J. P. Miller. It started like this: “Mrs. Ticklefeather was a very thin old lady with a good sized feather in her hat, and on her feet she had tall black shoes with plenty of buttons.”

That's a wonderful group of books, including some I don't know and am looking forward to finding. Is there anything special you want your readers to know about Night Wishes and your specific poem in the book?

Matt Forrest Esenwine - I think I would simply ask readers to take note of the perspectives in each poem and think about how and why each poet chose to create that particular personality for that particular subject. There are some wonderful questions you may pose to your child: Why is the pillow so eager for the child to start dreaming? Why is the dog so inquisitive? Why does the rocking horse want tomorrow to come? [Thank you, Matt!]

Renee M. La Tulippe – People are always curious about how one goes about getting in an anthology and what the process is once you’re asked to write a poem for one. Once Night Wishes comes out, I will be doing a video for my YouTube channel on the writing and revision process I went through for my poem “Night Light,” including Lee’s feedback on my various attempts. That should be nice and embarrassing! :D [Maybe, but very interesting!]

Rebecca Kai Dotlich – I try to always put the same amount of love and craft into each poem I write. For these particular poems, I tried to bring a calming effect plus the wonder of childhood into the bedtime poems. I do remember I titled each poem differently, but LBH really wanted the simple Bed, and Bed Again, and so those stayed. [Calming wonder describes your poems beautifully!]

Eileen Spinelli – There is something magical about seeing my words illustrated. I love, love, love the artwork for Cat. [I think Jen Corace did a remarkable job with the illustrations.]

Irene Latham – Our dog Rosie loves the beach! Just like the pooch in the poem, the sand and surf inspire lots of “happy-yappy circles.” [Great inspiration for your poem!]

Joyce Sidman –I read in bed every night. To me, a story is a way into sleep—a way to enter another world, far from the worries of everyday life. I want children to know that a book can be a friend and ally in this confusing world of ours. [I love this!]

So, what is the hardest part about writing poetry? Where do you get your inspiration?

Matt Forrest Esenwine - The hardest part of writing poetry is the writing part. [Touché]

Seriously, every aspect can be equally difficult or easy, depending on the subject, the style you’re going for, and how cooperative your muse feels like being. Some poems, like my construction project manager, take a week or two to research and contemplate, and then come together in less than a day once I start writing (which it did). Others may jump into my head so I’ll start putting words, all happy and joyful and optimistic…only to be derailed by structural problems or a lack of direction. Or worse, a lack of interest. So, it really does vary poem to poem.

Renee M. La Tulippe – While I don’t find writing poetry particularly difficult (except as noted for Lee’s books!), one thing I always try to be aware of is when, as Lee once said, I am “waxing poetic” instead of being authentic and truthful to the voice and needs of the poem. Obviously, the choice of language is very important in poetry, but there’s always a danger of going overboard, of being poetic for the sake of it. That’s why I always read my work out loud over and over and over—I can usually hear when it’s ringing false.

I am not a very prolific writer, so when inspiration strikes, I jump on it. I recently wrote a poem picture book based on a news article that a fellow writer sent me that just sparked my imagination and the words poured out. That’s a rare occurrence! I find in general that I like to write about the performing and visual arts, or use the arts as metaphor, and much of my work has some direct or indirect reference to theater, music, dance, and visual arts. I’m also inspired by thinking from the POV of an object, so I’d be much more likely to write a poem/story not about a child who finds a shell on the beach, but about the shell that is found.

Rebecca Kai Dotlich – Writing poetry is a part of me. It isn’t hard. Yes, there are times a poem doesn’t come together just right, or I am are trying to say something that I have to dig deep for the right words, in the right order, so it’s work in that way I suppose. But not hard work. It’s more like a puzzle. I have always been inspired by whatever I find myself wondering about, and along with that, by joy and sadness, emotions and heart, and by children and childhood. I can be inspired when I see a jar of colorful marbles, the gnarled trunk of a tree, a child drawing on the sidewalk with chalk, or the window of a house. And always, always I am a sky watcher and wonderer.

Eileen Spinelli – Free verse poetry is not difficult for me to write. It seems to be in my bones. What is difficult (though fun) is writing in rhyme. A single couplet can take days because I don't want the rhyme to feel forced...or too predictable.

Irene Latham – The hardest part for me is letting a poem sit. I know it needs to sit so that I can later greet it with fresh eyes for revision. But oh, I hate the waiting! I want to dive back into the poem immediately.

Joyce Sidman – The hardest part (but the most satisfying) for me is getting to the meat of the poem. I will have a feeling about something, and I know it’s important but I’m not sure why. I need to figure out the “why” of it, then find the best words to bring the reader along on that discovery process. If I get stuck trying to find the right voice for a poem, I dive into my collection of children’s and adult poetry for inspiration.

Although poetry seems to be in your bones, you all have moments of wrestling with a portion of a poem, or your muse. It seems that your sense of wonder and determination pulls you each through any struggles. If you could share one thing with your younger self and/or kids today what would that be?

Matt Forrest Esenwine - I would tell my young self the same thing I tell kids in schools: Being an author – or an illustrator – is a real career! For nearly 18 years, grown-ups tell kids they need to learn to write and spell – but we never tell them that writing is a real job. We encourage kids to cook if they enjoy baking, we encourage them to build birdhouses if they like working with wood…but we never encourage writing as a legitimate pursuit unto itself. We treat writing like we treat math: an important skill you’ll need in your life, but rarely is it something that is a pursuit unto itself. If a child enjoys writing, show them all the different types of writers out there: authors, poets, journalists, copy writers. I show students magazines that someone had to create – it could be them! I show them how everything they read online, every search result, every web page, every TV and movie script – had to be written by someone! Why not me??

Renee M. La Tulippe – To kids I’d say: "Be confident in following your passions and don’t listen to the naysayers. Take risks and believe you can do it!" I think this is especially important for creative kids who may be dissuaded from following their love of the arts in favor of more materially lucrative paths. What a shame!

To myself I’d say: "Be patient. Some of us are late bloomers, and that’s okay."

Rebecca Kai Dotlich – What do you love? What do you wonder about? Think about these things. Spend time on these things. Start a hobby. Start a few. Collect rocks, leaves, baseball cards or fossils or gems. Read books about these things. Don’t let yourself be bored. The world is too full of amazing, wondrous things to ever be bored.

Eileen Spinelli – I would like to encourage today's children to see what beautiful souls they are. And to remember how much this world needs their gifts, their ideas, their courage, and their compassion.

Irene Latham – Often the things that are most challenging about your life are exactly the things you'll need later. For instance, my older brothers were pretty mean to me. But they made me strong – and also prepared me to raise three sons. Also, our family moved A LOT, and I'm shy, so books became my best friends. Those books – being an avid reader – offered my first courses in becoming a writer. Everything you're going through, however difficult, is also giving you something important. The sooner you can recognize those gifts, the happier you'll be.

Joyce Sidman – That spark, that twinkle, that bit of oddness that makes you different—hold onto that. It will blossom into something wonderful. Also: be kind. Always. Cruelty will haunt you.

All such excellent advice! Last question, what is your favorite animal? Or one you are enamored with right now. Why?

Matt Forrest Esenwine - I’m a cat person, and grey tiger cats and Siamese are my favorites. I also love horses, but I love not being broke more. Ha! [A fellow horse-lover, I totally understand!]

Renee M. La Tulippe – Cats because they are good listeners. (Being fuzzy doesn’t hurt either.)

[I agree!]

Rebecca Kai Dotlich – Puppies. My favorite animal was my terrier Skippy which I loved for almost 18 years before he died. I’m enamored now with my grand dogs Ozzy and Bear. (And oh yes, I love koala bears!). [They are so adorable.]

Eileen Spinelli – I am enamored of crows right now. They are such smart birds. We feed them on our deck each morning. They show up, wait, and complain if we are late setting their breakfast out. [Wait until they bring the babies to visit! I thought starlings were noisy.]

Irene Latham – My patronus is an octopus: curious, smart, shy, expressive, flexible... my love song to octopuses is my picture book Love, Agnes: Postcards from an Octopus (Lerner, 2018, illus. by Thea Baker). [*snickering*]

Joyce Sidman - I adore dogs and have written many poems about them, but the other day I fell in love with some sheep at a nearby farm that came up to me and nuzzled my hands with their amazingly soft, warm noses. [Aww!]

Thank you all for sharing with us a bit about yourselves, your writing, and especially Night Wishes.

Be sure to come back by on Friday for The Perfect Picture #PPBF post on Night Wishes.

To learn more about these amazing poets, or to contact them:

Matt Forrest Esenwine - author of 30 poems and 10 picture books, including Flashlight Night (Boyds, Mills, & Kane 2017).


Renee M. La Tulippe – poet and author; developed and teaches the online course The Lyrical Language Lab and provides weekly free lessons and Peek&Critique sessions.

Children’s Poetry Blog:

Rebecca Kai Dotlich - author of numerous poems and 20 books, including Good Night, Oliver Wizard (Boyds Mills Press 2019).

Eileen Spinelli – award-winning author of numerous poems and 72 books, including Birdie (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers 2019).

Irene Latham – award-winning author of many poems, 2 novels, and 10 picture books, including The Cat Man of Aleppo (co-written with Karim Shamsi-Basha, G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers 2020).

Joyce Sidman – award-winning author of 16 children’s poetry books, including The Girl Who Drew Butterflies: How Maria Merian’s Art Changed Science (HMH Books for Young Readers 2018).

Deborah Ruddell – author of numerous poems and 4 picture books, including The Popcorn Astronauts: and Other Biteable Rhymes (Margaret K. McElderry Books 2015).


Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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