August 2, 2017

Papillon

When I had my children, for years I could not write. 
I had lost my Voice.

Some say it was from stress chemicals blocking my creativity.
Some say it was diagnose-able.

In truth, it was a time of reckoning for the many turning points in my life - traumatic, beautiful, and those traumatically beautiful.

Regardless, it was a time of loss – family, friends, Voice - those who had been with me always. 

But I never ran away.
The only way out was through.

So, I found other ways to speak:
in my mentor’s office as she helped me untie the knots...
in the wee hours soothing a fussy baby...
in the sweet kisses on rosy cheeks...
in the tears shed alone accepting truths...
in accepting “not perfect...”
in pushing through...
in choosing to laugh along with my children...

And in committing to the best for them - even if it meant slowing down, or stepping away from what was no longer good for me.

In doing so, I’ve found my Voice once more.

Maybe it was here, listening quietly.
Maybe it was changing in a chrysalis.
Maybe it was waiting before it spoke.

Waiting for the right moment, to say –“Let’s go. I’m with you for the journey to come.”


Photo Source: 
https://www.pinterest.com/ArBlTg/birds-bfwf-beautiful-friends-with-feathers/

July 16, 2017

Highlights Foundation Summer Camp: A Journey Through Windows and Mirrors




My Family Motto

The Mirror or What Is:


I am so emotional. My entire childhood was spent  trying to disappear so no one would see. I disappeared into play, into books, out the door, into the woods. As long as I can remember, emotions have made it difficult to be around people.

And I’m talking, simple everyday moments. As in, I’d miss everything the teacher said the hour before lunch because I was trying to figure out how not to be the first one to get my chocolate milk from the crate at the front of the classroom. (Everyone will be watching, waiting for their own turn. All because I’m at the top of the alphabet, or I sit in the first row, first seat. I’m so tall, they will all see me.)

So, there’s me - having all the fears, all the time. This makes for many issues. It takes a lot of energy to reign those feely-fear buggers in before things get too awkward or embarrassing around people.

40+ years in, however, I’ve learned that chocolate helps. Therapy. Or a glass of pinot. My emotions and I have finally come to an understanding. This is the work that I am compelled to do – even if it requires chocolate.

Elizabeth Gilbert refers to this as Big Magic. I couldn’t agree more. Just as things quickly got out of hand for Mickey Mouse in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, my emotions flow, flood and wash me around when I write. Creation drags me up the mountain of ideas, then shoves me down into the rugged reality valley. My senses overload. I must nap, eat chocolate, pour a glass of wine. Moderation is important. My children, family, friends, and bills need me.

I am passionate, but not precious about my prose, characters, or concepts. I work slowly in order to best moderate the journey. My projects require time.

Ideally, I would write scenes in small batches, then tuck them into draws to cool like fresh-baked cookies, so I can taste them without burning my tongue. But, mostly, I’ve been known to serve up those scenes piping hot to readers in my creative fervor. What’s a roller coaster writer to do?

Disappear, of course. But not in the way you might expect.


Loft Window at The Barn Overlooking the Word Garden


The Window or What Is Possible:


Many writers go on secluded retreats to create their very own Wonderlands. On my own, I’ve often disappeared through the mirror, into story, out the window, and into the woods of creating, losing all sense of project direction.

Then, I discovered Highlights Foundation Summer Camp.

Just as books are full of mirrors and windows for readers, the Highlights experience holds the same for writers and illustrators.

This place allows time and space to nurture all creators.

There is time to reflect, time to think, time to play, time to learn, and time to grow.

There is time to explore, time to share, time to eat <<amazing>> food, even time to nap – if one must.

There are plenty of woods for active meditation, and window views that do just fine when it rains.  

There is even chocolate and pinot, with friendship and laughter stepping in for therapy.

In other words, the good people at the heart of the workshop experience know exactly how to 
support creators. Highlights has a heart and history of being there for those who wield Big Magic for young readers.

This was my first Summer Camp at The Highlights Foundation. 

I would happily be the first to return - even if it means being seen by everyone.


Gratitudes


Thank you, Jillian Sullivan, for awakening my characters through “Tell Me…” and showing me how best to let the reader in.

Thank you, Patricia Gauch, for teaching the importance of mischief in storytelling, and reminding me to dwell in possibilities, just like Christina Katerina.  

Thank you, Jan Cheripko, for encouraging me to write what’s true and to keep sharing it.

Thank you, Peter Jacobi, for challenging me to Dream! Dare! Do! and showing me the importance of leaving a lasting impression.   



Thank you, Mitali Perkins, for whipping my lazy ascriptions and adverbs off the page. And for having a soft spot for super nerds.

Thank you, Meg Medina, for making me find the One True Story running through all of my work.  
Thank you, Shadra Strickland, for sharing the sparks of your illustrative and poetic journey with us.

Thank you, Lamar Giles, for pushing me to refine crystal clarity in my word choice.

Thank you, Linda Comacho, for reminding me to quit underselling myself since writing is an act of bravery.



Thank you, Alison Green-Meyers, for keeping us informed and cheering us on the whole week through.

Thank you, Martha & Amanda, for the unforgettable sweet and savory flavors that will last a lifetime in my heart.

Thank you, Jo Lloyd, for all your wonderful guidance before I even arrived.

Thank you, George Brown, for the terrific hospitality, help with travel woes, and opening your home at Fox Hill Farm to us.


Lastly, I’m especially grateful to Kent Brown, for continuing this fantastic family legacy that welcomes and nurtures Big Magic to The Barn.  For a creator, there’s nowhere better.

I really could go on and on – and on. But I must end with one last shout-out to all the amazing friends I met at The Barn last week.

It was a beautiful week in the neighborhood, thank you for being my neighbor!


Can’t wait to see where our journeys take us next!   




July 2, 2016

A Perspective on Choices



Sarah Aronson is a writer who gave me the gift of an amazing manuscript critique at the SCBWI regional conference in April, where she also presented and delivered a keynote address. 

She earned an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and is the co-founder and director of Writing Novels for Young People Retreat at VCFA. She also teaches for the Highlights Foundation. In other words, she knows her stuff when it comes to kidlit. 

The conference was where I fully realized the extent of how green I am at all of this. And my manuscript screamed green. But, this was not a problem for Sarah Aronson. In fact, green is good. Green means your seed has life. Sprouts are green. Green means growth. 


I wanted to share her latest blog about the importance of choices because it provides a collective peek into her presentation, keynote, and the helpful comments she made on my manuscript. Most importantly, I want to save it for when my manuscript needs the next round of tending. More water. More sun. More play. Because, though it's not easy being green, green is good. Go Green!


http://www.throughthetollbooth.com/2016/06/30/choices/


May 26, 2016

From the clay...

Some days, when I sit down to write, I feel like extracting the ideas from my brain is akin to pulling sewing threads through hardening clay. My brain aches just trying to keep hold of the turn of phrase that best captures and articulates my idea.

I know the concept of drafting is supposed to cure this and I'm supposed to just let the ideas flow free, to sketch the shape of the story. On days like this, the concept of drafting does not help at all! More days of pulling more threads through clay, surely, makes the headache much worse.

But, these are the days when I have to remind myself that it takes time, patience, and plenty of hydration to get the threads from the clay.

From this clay, many beautiful forms may take shape, and each delicate thread's true color is revealed when exposed to the light.

These are the days when the finer points are blessings, even if the stitches are small and delicate upon the page.

Because today one more piece of the story is known, and there is always tomorrow.

May 10, 2016

Erosion



We don’t have to.
We don’t have...
We don’t.
We...

You want me to.
You want me.
You want...
You.

You can’t make me.
You can’t make...
You can’t.
You.

I don’t have to.
I don’t have...
I don’t.
I...

I want to….
I want…
I...


May 2, 2016

Level Up, Dorothy!

Day 3 - WWMW SCBWI Conference

Kansas. Who wants Kansas, anymore?

In keeping with my first Oz-themed SCBWI blog post, I hereby declare myself a citizen of Oz (SCBWI),even if the road is pot-holed and - definitely - not paved with gold. This Dorothy wanted to stay with the munchkins...at least for a while longer!

I've met some truly kindred spirits and a critique group to boot! It doesn't happen every day, so you have to cherish it when  it does. You must dare to open the door and choose adventure.

Sunday morning, I received my manuscript critique from author Sarah Aronson.

To be honest, I had no idea what I was getting into when I registered in February. This is a lifelong trend, friends. Jump! Sink or swim! Improvise! Whether getting married, teaching or raising kids, you name it - that's how I roll.

When I received the folder, I didn't really want to open it - not because I was afraid of rejection or failure. It was because I've loved every single brainy second of this weekend and wanted to keep a few crumbs for home.

You know, home.

The place with the room of broken promises - the laundry room - where machines promise to clean socks, only offering half of them back. The rest are held captive in another dimension.

It's that place with all those meandering, unfocused moments. Moments when one can't hear one's self think from the chorus of kids' grievances regarding the dinner menu.

The moments when one is out of one's favorite coffee, so one makes do with the super tangy Christmas cookie flavored coffee. Of course, it's a warm spring morning, and now one's brain is confused by Seasonal Seasoning Disorder. It can put one's whole day out of whack, and the effort to reorder life leaves one considering tinsel's hauntingly common properties with Easter basket grass. Are they cousins? Siblings? Is tinsel the overachieving eldest sibling? What kind of person decides to make tinsel for a living?

What kind of person falls down the rabbit hole - every - single- day - like this?

A writer, with swirling worlds trapped inside her head.

At WWMW SCBWI - 2016, Sarah Aronson answered, "So what?!" "Play More!"

In her session on "Starting With Character," I learned these types of thoughts yield multitudes of seeds for creating rich characters. And, that a beginning of something is better than the beginning of nothing.

Her critique told me to take my seed, give it good stakes, use the tools at hand, have fun - but, grow the damn thing! My boring fears are not nourishing this character, nor the story.

And she's 1000% correct.

WWMW SCBWI - 2016 has been pure oxygen.

An atmosphere offering critiques that inspire me to get my hands dirty, instead of shrugging my shoulders and walking away, is simply crucial for my creative life.

No longer will I be a stranger in a strange land. The writing life IS my home.

Time to LEVEL UP and play!



 





 

April 30, 2016

You Belong Here!

Day 2 - SCBWI Wild, Wild, West Conference


Okay, so, I have to be honest. I did not know what I was stepping into when I signed up for this conference. Having never done this before, I even brought along my laptop, and extra books to read, you know, in case I had lots of downtime on my hands, and not one of the 500+ folks would talk to me. I always prepare for the worst. I'm a social survivalist. I pack what's necessary.

But, guess what? I made friends AND I have enough material for my brain to chew on to last at least until the next conference! Whew!

                                                   

Just today, alone, I've learned:

1) the diversity in my texts is absolutely heading in the right direction

2) an organizational strategy for series writing

3) that both authors and agents make wonderful lunch pals

4) what to do in case of a PR crisis

5) that "So What" is the answer when "Play More" is not

6) I'm not alone, nor behind - in fact, I'm exactly in the right space at the right time #MidwestSCBWI2016

7) that "said" is not dead  #ZombieSaid

8)  so far everyone at this conference is amazingly supportive of one another no matter where we are in our processes.

And the day is not even over!  Stay tuned!