Thursday, January 29, 2009


One more day until I'm off to this year's SCBWI Conference in NYC. The economy has certainly had its effect on that small circle of writing friends of mine. Lots of tough choices out there. This year, however, I am so very proud of my two good friends, Ann Haywood Leal whose Also Known As Harper (Henry Holt) will be available in May (mine's on order) and Jame Richards' Three Rivers Rising (Knopf) will follow shortly thereafter in 2010. Yippee! Two more babies over the hump and into the marketplace. 
Ann and Jame are truly magnificent writers, and to my good fortune friends of mine through Pat Giff's writing class. I do believe we own our seats there in the Dinosaur's Paw in Fairfield, CT. (There are only 20 seats in all!) We're dedicated to Pat and to her belief in us along with her knowledge of what works and what doesn't work on the page. There's a pattern and rhythm to her thoughts and ideas and if you stay long enough, you tend to infuse all those little understandings into the fabric of your work. Listening to Jame and Ann's work read aloud by Patricia Reilly Giff has been a little slice of heaven in my writing life.
Every year when the conference rolls around again, whether I'm attending or not, I get that sense of...okay, where am I in all of this? It has not been until recently that I have begun to market my work, and to feel that sense of urgency in doing so. Prior to that, I think I must've thought it'd get out there through osmosis, or even perhaps through the behind the scenes work of some all-knowing book fairy! Now, I've gotten that 'slap in the face' realism, in part, because of the state of the market, but also because I'm surrounded by a great group of friends in writing. We are each other's cheerleaders riding this shaky raft together.  The conference bolsters me through those very cold mornings when it's just me and that blue light of the computer screen. It gives me a hope, a belief  and a connection, which to a writer is everything and much more! For children's book writers and illustrators, this marks our New Year! (And for those who won't be there...it's dinner at Centro, that's for sure!)

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Keeping Freedom

Innaugural
clippings
and shavings,
assorted flags,
and fluff,
the less historic
remnants
left behind.

     Moving vans
     and moving crowds
     have all
                                                     moved on.
                                                     
     In their wake,
                                                     a steady stream of
     comments and
                                                     commentary,
                                                     a well-trained
                                                     lens
     fixed on 
                                                     every breath,
     every word,
                                                     and every
                                                     action too.

     What it must be like
      to be Barack Obama,

      Taking the 
      Whole
World
in his hands,

Making a few
bold actions,
Waiting and watching
Listening
                                                         to Washington's 
response and reaction.

And all the while,
keeping cool,
holding tight
to his very own
                                                        blackberry,
                                                        a connection to
another world,
that small circle
of freedom
that keeps
the ground
under his feet.

                                                   

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Small Circles


I am a surfer! I twitter, blog and surf the net to study the current status of the writing industry, to find websites that inform my love for writing...but mostly to seek and find the footprints of those that are successfully becoming published in these turbulent times. Like it or not, this is the way to go these days. If I want to find my audience, I have to help them find me a bit first. I have to prove my viability in terms of networking in this wireless world. I don't mind it, but I know I can get lost in it too. And so...I keep coming back to my goals for this year. If I want to get my two books out there...and the third and fourth that I'm currently working on (it's a disease, this writing, honestly!), then I have to do what I've done all my life. I have to continue to rely on the small, but varied circle of friends that are out there...my army of good friends who know that I'd do anything for them as well. I didn't have this figured out when I was a young adult...trying to deal with all the crises and dramas of life, that's for sure! But over the balance of my life, I've learned to lean in and let my friends carry me sometimes...and at other times, stand strong and let them lean in on me. I travel in small circles, but they...are the best of the best people this world has to offer! As my circles travel...the network grows, and so, in turn does mine. For all my friends that are out there now...I have not lost my mind! I'm a blogger, a twitterer...but first and foremost, I'm a human and to me, it's more important that I hear YOUR ideas than for you to hear mine. My dad's highest compliment of a person was..."He'd give you the shirt off his back!" Well, dad...that's a scary thought! But how 'bout the last chip in my bag...my last french fry, or the last sip of my latte? These days, I think time is the proof of real friendship! So...to those of you that have been a part of my circle forever, or those that have just recently joined, thank you for helping me find my way each day. You are welcome to my time, the coat off my back and anything else that matters to me at this moment in time.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Larger than Life

Her absence
was so
obvious 
yesterday,

and yet 

her presence
was too.

We longed
for her
in our 
remembering-

her calico print
blouse in the 
framed picture,
the mom that 
wore that blouse,
so many 
lifetimes ago.

Even the gold 
ensconced edge 
of the Lenox dish,
she herself selected
as a very young 
bride. 
And then,
of course,
her wedding gown too
evokes a story,
bought on sale...
to fit the occasion.

Who else would
do something 
like that?

The details of her life,
remain so clear
in the small tangible
remains.

But then...
there are the babies
she'd never meet,
her granbabies
bringing
us all together,
uniting us 
once more
to take a look back,
and to look 
forward too.

For there-- 
in those 
impish grins,
in the silly chorus
of childhood voices,
and in the clatter
of footfalls,
she lives,
even now,
causing trouble,
stirring them up,

Calling our
hearts 
to always, 
always celebrate
the joy
in the laughter...

And isn't it 
the laughter,
the fun,
the trouble-making
that she
was most about?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Inspiration

   Ah, the wisdom of Snoopy. Thank you, Charles Schultz!             "Learn from Yesterday. Live for Today. Look to Tomorrow."

My life is a confluence of writing and story these days, and boy am I loving it. I'm finding inspiration in the darkened mornings in that dim light of my computer screen. I've connected with many others out there who are, like me, working the craft...and doing the day-job to keep the lights on at home too! Jill Corcoran's blog is loaded with all kinds of information related to marketing, writing, and life in general (http://jillcorcoran.blogspot.com/). Grace Lin's comments on the "Blue Rose Girls" blog (http://bluerosegirls.blogspot.com/) have also evoked a great deal of thoughts and ideas for me too. What I love most, though, is the fact that so many in the field of writing avail themselves to each other in such a giving way. Honestly, where else in the world do you see that? Could it be that our work is so satisfying, we don't feel the urge to pull the maneuvers we see in the all-too-political world of 8-4/9-5 out there? I love writing. I love writers. Edgy writers, corny writers, silly writers, sarcastic writers too. I'm blown away by the many out there, who, like me, live by that blue light, eagerly awaiting the arrival of that invisible critter...the morning muse that shows up with my morning coffee each day. This morning, I swear, there was a faint smell of coffee on his breath too. 

Meanwhile...back in the classroom~where the other hat lives:

Today I went off to work...to my classroom where we're immersed in a study of story. I told my kids their homework tonight will be very simple. These sixth graders are home scouring their shelves, looking for all the favorites that enchanted them or lulled them to sleep long ago. We've read Harold, the Mouse and his Cookie, Where those Wild Things Are, Brave Irene...and many more. They clamor for more...but I've got to get THEM writing. Tomorrow, we'll compare story arcs, plots and problems and then we'll comb through all my picture books. Following that, they'll start on all the favored novels that stack my shelves. All the while looking at the patterns they find there. They, like me, are searchers. We're looking to find what works, what doesn't and how we, as authors, can reach an audience. The process...the people, the writing, all of it flows together, and right now...it's all good! Writing and thoughts about writing encircle my life and make me eager to get up and look to tomorrow for more! Let's hope that Mr. Muse brushes his teeth before he joins me, though! ;)

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Resolution Police

But officer, it was so worth it! Okay, I didn't subscribe to the Resolution thing, so I wasn't really worrying about the New Year's Cops coming after me. Now my conscience is bothering me. I thought I was doing okay and didn't need a list of dos and don'ts. But.

Here it is the fourth day of the New Year, and I'm off the wagon.
Between today and yesterday, I said good bye to two of my three kids, and my third asked me for money to go buy ice cream. I handed over a ten, all the while telling myself 'no'  inside my head. But when he returned, I realized we were partners in crime! I couldn't find the icecream scoop fast enough.

I know, I know...I caved so quickly. I can rationalize anything. He bought Reeses! What?! It was plain vanilla, strawberry or chocolate when I grew up. Well, that's a lie. The drug store's soda fountain had chocolate chip mint, peach, strawberry, cherry vanilla too. (Boring!) Nobody ever thought of mixing candy into the ice cream. Us kids did that on our own. At any rate, once again, I digress.

Back to the writing and resolutions. 

Here's my plan for '09:

1. Say no to everything that has nothing to do with a) family and b)writing.

2. Market myself more. (I put this above writing this year, because I'm pretty clueless about it and I need to get public about that.)

3. Just write. Last year, I wrote a middle grade fiction novel between the months of October '07 and April '08. I began a young adult novel in July and finished it in November. I've never felt more satisfied. 

4. Meet with my new group more often, perhaps visiting new ways of accomplishing that.

5. Read more.

6. Have fun! (This is really numero uno...thus the ice cream.) 

See y'all at the SCBWI Convention in New York at the end of the month. I'm hoping for some inspiration to get that funky feeling out of the world of children's publishing. It's going to rebound...kids keep reading, so we've gotta keep writing. What else would we do, anyway? Like the ice cream, wild horses couldn't drag me away, that's for sure.

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