This is what my week has been like on a writing retreat.

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I’ve written more than 8,000 words, and I’m SO close to finishing the first draft of my current novel. I’ve given myself a December 1st deadline which I’m writing here only to give myself some accountability. Away from home and television, I’ve been able to dive into the fictional world I’ve created (which is comforting considering the real world is stranger than fiction.)

I know for sure that next week will be crazier still with a long drive over the river, and through the woods to Grandma and Grandpa’s apartment. Driving from Maine to DC is long on the best day but around the Thanksgiving holiday I’m pretty sure it’s one of Dante’s circles of hell. Limbo? Wrath? Violence?

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Before I have to get in the car and face Turkey Day traffic, I’m so pleased to enjoy my sons’ high school performance of The Great Gatsby. Their amazing trailer is here.

Finally, I always have on my mind the next action I can take to combat anti-Semitism, racism and bigotry, and LGBTQ hate in the current climate:
Phone calls and letter to my elected officials.
In-person actions: rallies and marches at the state and national level
Update donations to Equality Maine, The AntiDefamation LeagueACLU of Maine, the Maine Women’s Lobby, and the Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project.

Even though the election shoved my hope in a hole, this video “Don’t Despair, There’s Work to Do,” from Robert Reich helped me see actions I could take.

Peace to all.
 

 

A Room of One’s Own

When the world is scary my journaling and poetry output soars, but it can be hard to put two creative words together on my novel. Sadly, my NaNoWriMo goals have gone by the wayside this week. Here are some photos of the room that I’m refurbishing behind my garage. Originally, this room was divided into three uninsulated storage spaces with no windows.

This will be my “room of her own.”

That’s my beautiful son helping me lay floated cork flooring.

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That left hand wall will have a book case on it so the green will peek out from around the books.

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I found the windows on Craig’s List. The space beneath the bay window will be for larger sketch pads and paintings.

Bay Window Exterior

Since those pictures were taken we’ve finished the ceiling and electric:

Studio Ceiling

If you are wishing for A Room of Her Own, take a look at the AROHO Foundation. They do amazing work to support women writers and artists.

 

Illustrator Ernie D’Elia chats about #5stonesbooks book cover illustration and the creative process.

Creative Chaos welcomes new readers who are coming here to follow G.A. Morgan’s blog tour for the Kirkus starred review book, The KinfolkThis blog is called “Creative Chaos” for a reason. Not only do creators exist in a world that pulls them in various crazy, stressful directions, but the process of making art of any media is a wonderful jumble of ideas and leads, backtracks and revisions. It’s messy and often—yes—chaotic. Ernie D’Elia is an illustrator who understands the chaos of creation. He fashions three dimensional worlds from nothing. He draws. He paints. He writes. (All images that follow are property of Ernie D’Elia and Islandport Press and may not be used without permission.)

Ernie and I met through New England SCBWI and attended a wonderful intensive by Lita Judge about breaking into kidlit illustration by focussing on book covers. The next thing I knew, Ernie was sharing his cover design for The Fog of Forgetting, the first in the Five Stones Trilogy (#5stonesbooks) by G.A. Morgan, published by Islandport Press. This week, The Kinfolk, the final installment of that trilogy launched. Welcome, Ernie! 
Q. Tell us a little about your professional journey (or chaos) that led you to illustrate the Five Stones Trilogy. Was The Fog of Forgetting your first cover? What other professional illustration jobs did you have before this?
A. Thanks for inviting me to talk about creating the covers for the Five Stones Trilogy, and creating in general!
The Fog of Forgetting was not my first cover. The first was a really fun adventure story called “How to Survive Ancient Spells and Crazy King.” There was a great up-lit Mayan King with a jaguar headdress, looming over the heroes. 

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Q. Wow, I love the light! In the workshop we took together, Lita stressed the importance of being open to revision and brainstorming a large quantity of cover ideas. Once you got the job, did your first drawing get approved? How did you land on the final art for book one?
A. Fog of Forgetting went through a handful of sketch ideas, then a couple roughs, and one or two changes in the final drawing.
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Sketch #4

My favorite idea (sketch #4) did not make the cut, but looking back, it wasn’t the best fit.

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Sketch #2
Sketch #2 was too crowded, but the tree, platform and waterfall were on target.
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Sketch #2 Round 2
Sketch round 2 #2 was almost there, but he looked too tentative. In the final art, he’s gripping a sword, looking heroic.
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That’s why flexibility is really important! It’s hard to be objective when you’re in the throes of making stuff. Trust in your editor/art director!
Q. What is your process choosing the scene you’d like to portray? Do you read each of the books before you start drafting cover ideas or are you given a synopsis?
A. I don’t always get the entire manuscript. Usually there are a few select scenes to work with, luckily. I would probably overwhelm everyone with sketches of every scene–“Let’s make this a graphic novel!” written on every page.
Q. Which book cover was the most difficult to create and why? How did you find a solution?
A. The trickiest by far was Chantarelle, the second book. Islandport had a specific set of requirements for this one. The characters are falling into a chasm, an explosion propels them up and out, AND there’s a giant black panther after them. The perspective alone was a challenge, not to mention 5 desperate reaching hands. There were way too many sketches of that cover to share, let’s just say there was a heaping pile of trial and error, and a steaming bowl of failure, until it was all worked out. Creative chaos at its best!
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Chantarelle final painting
In direct opposition to that one, Kinfolk was two drawings, some minor tweaking, and right into the final. It’s my favorite of the three.
Q. Each book features various characters from the stories. Tell us a little bit about your process of character creation.
A. Creating characters from G.A. Morgan’s work wasn’t difficult because they were so well written. I felt like I had a clear idea of each person. I think it was Annie O’Brien that said you shouldn’t draw characters, you should draw people. A character can easily become a cartoon, but a person is an individual; not a stereotype, not an archetype. That’s especially true when portraying people of ethnic backgrounds that are not your own.
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The Kinfolk sketch #2
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The Kinfolk sketch #4
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The Kinfolk FPO (for position only)
Q. No illustrator is an island, and you worked with Islandport Press children’s editor, Melissa Kim. How did Melissa guide you in this process? Was she more hands on or off? Were there any particular suggestions she gave that were especially helpful to you as an illustrator that you’d be willing to pass on here?
A. Melissa was great to work with! Her input was always spot-on. It was her suggestion to change the posture of Chase (on the first cover) from frightened to more bold. She was hands on, as far as being involved in guiding the process, and was always there to answer questions. I had a great time working on these books with her! Like I said before, trust your art director!
Thanks so much for visiting Creative Chaos today, Ernie!
Thanks for having me on the blog! See you soon, hopefully!
If you missed the other blog posts on this week’s tour, I’ve listed them below. Don’t miss the world debut of the book trailer tomorrow!
Monday, October 24: G.A. Morgan Lists Her Top Ten Fantasy Books for Kids on Pragmatic Mom.
Tuesday, October 25: Launch Day! Happy Book Birthday post on Middle Grade Mafia
Wednesday, October 26: G.A. Morgan Interview on From the Mixed-up Files of Middle Grade Authors
Thursday, October 27: Cover Illustrator Ernie D’Elia talks process and book covers on Creative Chaos
Friday, October 28: A debut of The Kinfolk book trailer on the Islandport Press Blog.
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Here’s Kirkus Reviews had to say in their starred review about The Kinfolk:
 
imgres.png     “Morgan holds the complex plot deftly, alternating the third-person narration through the points of view of several main characters (Dankar, Chase, Knox, Evelyn) chapter by chapter. With clarity and economy, she intertwines back story, setting, adventure, and philosophy in convivial balance, and she admirably maintains the individuality of her very large cast of characters (helpfully delineated in a guide at the back). She tests her characters sorely and sometimes violently, but it’s always in service of the plot. Teeming with adventure and philosophical richness, this trilogy closer excels.”
 Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review
Here’s a link to the Islandport Press bookstore.
Or ask your local bookseller for The Kinfolk today!

 

Books that kept me up past midnight.

As usual, things are busy here at Creative Chaos. The job with Islandport Press that I spoke about here, became a permanent part-time position. My new title is “Editor & Special Projects,” which means that each day comes with new surprises. I love the dynamic nature of my position as well as the creative and collaborative problem solving that goes on every day. I’ve feeling very lucky.

I also feel lucky to be amongst books every day. It often means that there is just one more book to put on my virtual To Be Read pile. (You can see all 403 of them here.)

Most of my reading happens at night once I’ve pulled up the covers and turned on my bedside lamp. It’s a chance to push aside the virtual, plugged-in world for a literary one. Usually I’m asleep after a few pages (sometimes with my glasses still on and the book slipping to the floor) so the reading is slow going. Sometimes, however, a story takes hold of me, and I am transported to those flashlight-under-the-covers moments I had as a child.

Recently, two books made me feel that I absolutely had to finish the story before sleeping.

51h1vdouv6l-_sx324_bo1204203200_The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

From Goodreads: Nine-year-old Ada has never left her one-room apartment. Her mother is too humiliated by Ada’s twisted foot to let her outside. So when her little brother Jamie is shipped out of London to escape the war, Ada doesn’t waste a minute—she sneaks out to join him.

My take: I was so moved by Ada’s story, her strength, her heart, her head. Brubaker Bradley is an amazing storyteller who isn’t protective of her characters and we are the better for it. All the female characters are unique and strong (and flawed) in their own way. An argument could be made that even Ada’s despicable mother shows strength against impoverished conditions in the only way she knows how. In addition to well-realized characters, we also get treated to beautiful but spare description of the English countryside.

5138jx-gesl-_sx331_bo1204203200_ Wrecked by Maria Padian

From Goodreads: When Jenny accuses Jordan of rape, Haley and Richard are pushed to opposite sides of the school’s investigation. Now conflicting versions of the story may make bringing the truth to light nearly impossible—especially when reputations, relationships, and whole futures are riding on the verdict.

My take: Told expertly in alternating close 3rd person POV Richard and Haley meet, and become close while linked to a investigation for sexual assault at fictional McCallum college. Because neither of them are the victim or the aggressor, the reader gets a wider view of the issue of sexual assault on campus. Whether the character is a hippie, math whiz, bio geek, athlete, Dean, or parent the issue is complex and inextricably linked to narrative. This is an excellent book for starting conversations about sexual assault on campus. It’s one that will keep you turning pages until the story is complete.

What books should I add to my TBR list that keep you up reading?

Join me on Thursday when I interview Ernie D’Elia, cover illustrator of the Five Stones Trilogy. The Kinfolk, the conclusion of the #5stonesbooks, launches Tuesday, October 25th and the blog tour is going on all week long.

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Sexism, language and the difficult job of being an Olympic commentator…

The Olympics are on our home TV most of the time these days and with it has come some interesting and important conversations. My feminist ideology informs my viewing and my commentary of various media and one of my two sons often retorts that I am a conspiracy theorists. Sadly, this Olympics has provided me with prime examples of sexism in reporting.

Sexism undercutting female athletes’ Rio achievements? 

This article from CBS This Morning details the most publicized snafu’s and coded sexism from commentators, explaining women’s achievements in relationship to other men: their husbands, their coaches, and other male athletes. The basic lesson here is that language is inextricably a marker of the systematic inequalities in our society.

Olympics 2016: Battle of the sexes in the unequal language of sport

Those who aren’t convinced can look at this CNN article from Henry Young who describes “new research from the UK’s Cambridge University Press, which has looked at the way we talk about men and women in sport.” How do we talk about men and women? Men are strong, and skilled, women are married, or moms, or have a new uniform designed by X.

Top 10 Most Sexist Things To Occur At The 2016 Rio Olympics So Far

Huffington Post writer Sarah Beauchamp enumerates sexist things ending with the statement from NBC’s Marketing Exec John Miller that (to paraphrase) women like the journey, the narrative of the athlete and not the outcome.

Olympics: NBC exec says women aren’t watching for the actual sports

What does this really mean when the male executives who make our viewing decisions don’t think that women watch sports…for sports?

My son theorizes, in defense of Mr. Miller: He’s probably just going on the demographics data that they have. You don’t like sports?

My response: Why am I here watching the Olympics?

My son: You don’t like watching sports with us other than the Olympics. Like football.

Me: No. I’m not a fan of watching grown men crash into each other violently for three hours with an hour of commercials. I like rowing, and equestrian, and gymnastics, and fencing, and weightlifting. Sports that our US media chooses not to air on a regular basis. Therefore, their demographic numbers are skewed.

My son: But people like football, baseball and basketball.

Me: That’s all they give us.

Son: Because that’s all that’s worth watching.

Me: The decisions to cover and sponsor those sports exclusively came to be when women didn’t have access to sport. Corporate and collegiate money in this country created a pipeline that led to high paying and elite competition for men that was televised.

I didn’t go into the importance of Title IX in trying to alleviate these inequalities. He’s heard it before. The argument continued until I pointed to a prescient comment under one of the articles that observed those who aren’t affected by the inequality often don’t feel the pain of the injury. I recently appreciated a quote,“When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.” (I can’t find the attribution although I’ve found it used in a variety of posts and articles.) Basically, my son, and the other folks who rail against evidence of sexism in sports don’t see a problem because it’s not a problem for them.

Being a commentator is difficult. People can take words out of context or lack empathy for the fact that a commentator has one minute to fill with only 10 seconds of real info. Still, that’s what a talking-head signs up for, AND…each commentator has an army of producers and researchers literally in his or her ear to give stats and facts.

Tell me how many hours a day the athlete practices.

Tell me more about the rules of the specific sports.

Tell me (and possible future athletes) about the pipeline for these athletes to get where they are today.

Tell me how this athlete was able to raise the private funds to get where they are today and how other countries do it differently.

Tell me how they get a horse to prance in place.

These are the questions we run to Google for but if NBC was doing its job, we wouldn’t have to.

I’ll leave you with this link to amazing photos of female athletes at the games. Enjoy!

50 Photos That Show The Raw Power Of This Year’s Olympic Women

Only 24 hours in a day. Or 1+1+1+1=100.

Yesterday I got a notification that my blog was having a banner day–surprising since I haven’t posted in two months–and it reminded me how busy the last two months have been. As readers of Creative Chaos might know, I’m almost two years out from a divorce and the economic insecurities that often accompany divorce can be stressful. More on that in a few…

Over the past year I’ve been pleased to find challenging and satisfying work event planning at Maine Share, doing customer service work at LLBean, and event planning at Bowdoin College. All along, I’ve been volunteering as the Program Director with my local rowing club. This spring, they hired me as their part time Head Coach as well and I’ve spent a great deal of time in the last two months on the water teaching adults and teens to scull and sweep row.

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In addition to the coaching and program directing I’m also SUPER happy to have found a part time temporary home at Islandport Press as their Author Relations and Events Coordinator. In this position I’m able to help Islandport authors with social media, blogs, book them in bookstores and festivals, and help create publicity campaigns and events to sell great books. (Shameless plug: please follow Islandport Press on social media.)

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We now rejoin our program of economic insecurity already in progress…

I love what I’m doing. Still, anyone who has juggled a family, writing, and more than one job knows that the sum of the parts feels WAY greater than it should (ie: 1+1+1+1=100) Part of that 100 number is the chasm of unemployment that looms with temporary jobs. Once the rowing season ends, and the temporary position with the publishing house ends I’m on the search again. It’s a feast and famine sensibility so in the last two months I’ve also written and delivered an article to the new Coxing Magazine (so exciting!), given a presentation to the Romance Writers of Maine, and taught a rowing workshop to counselors at a local sleep away camp. I’m the busy ant storing for the winter.

If there is a positive about the looming chasm of unemployment it is that I might actually get back to my works in progress (a middle grade novel 1st draft and 2 PB rewrites) which wait patiently on my computer. I also might be posting more here at Creative Chaos. I will keep you updated. Cheers!

 

Audiofile 2016 Sync Program for Teens Launches Today!

This is the time of year where teens are stretched to breaking. The kids I coach have that crazed look from studying for numerous AP tests in addition to dealing with their school work, sports, and extracurricular activities. My own pair of teens is at school from 7am to 8pm some days, followed by hours of homework, and have a full month of evening spring music performances. Finals are around the corner and every time I remind a teen about the importance of a full night’s sleep I get an eye roll and not-in-this-lifetime scoff. In my opinion teens should take a well-deserved break during summer break.  

BUT…

You’ve seen the lists of required for reading for teens? You’ve heard of the “summer slide?” It seems that there is no rest for the weary.

Enter the Audiofile Magazine and OverDrive App free audiobook program. It makes summer reading fun and free. That’s right, free. Throughout the summer, I get text messages reminding me about the two new audiobooks that are available for the week. One book is usually newer and is paired with an older book. Together, the books explore specific literary themes or content. The titles change every Thursday at 7pm. Here’s a link to explore the titles for the 2016 season.

From the Sync website:

SYNC is a free summer audiobook program for teens 13+. Running May 5th – August 17th 2016, SYNC will give away two complete audiobook downloads a week (30 titles) – pairs of high interest titles, based on weekly themes. In 2014, 26 titles were given away over 13 weeks. In 2015, 28 titles were given away over 14 weeks.

The OverDrive App is available on many different devices and platforms. There’s information about downloading the app here. Once you download OverDrive, the books go with you everywhere. I found that the books were perfect for summer road trips and even had some driveway moments where no one wanted to stop the book so we sat in the car. The dog got longer walks too.

This week books are VIVIAN APPLE AT THE END OF THE WORLD, by Katie Coyle and THE GREAT TENNESSEE MONKEY TRIAL, by Peter Goodchild.

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See the descriptions and more at the Sync Website, download OverDrive, and sign up for your Sync text messages today!

A tired teen*  will thank you.

*Also recommended for YA Writers, Parents, Teachers, Librarians and any other Young Adult Literature lover. May cause intense focus, inability to complete chores, loss of writing time. Chocolate sometimes eases symptoms. See your library youth media specialist any of these symptoms persist past Labor Day.

 

April To Be Read Pile

  

 I’m almost done with HOT PTERODACTYL… and can’t wait to tell you about it. Also, I’m currently reading a Sporty Girl Book from gymnast Shawn Johnson that I’ll be reviewing over at Sporty Girl Books blog.  For my adult bookclub I’m supposed to be reading LEMONCHOLY LIFE OF ANNIE ASTER, by Scott Wilbanks, but I got scheduled to work that day so it slipped to the bottom of the pile. 

In addition to these amazing books, I’m also looking forward to new books from Julie Berry, THE PASSION OF DOLSSA, and Kate DiCamillo’s, RAYMIE NIGHTENGALE.  

What’s on your pile!

 

Children’s Writing 101 with MWPA: Blog and Retreat Links

Last Saturday I presented the workshop “The Business of Children’s Writing 101” with the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance. We had a cozy class which allowed the participants to get some great one on one attention as they crafted their elevator pitches and queries in advance of the New England SCBWI spring conference. We discussed the journey of a book from manuscript to publication, defined Midlist, and learned not to defend our work in a critique. We even got to have a mini-workshop for those who had brought picture book manuscripts.

The afternoon brought a web hunt of great kidlit blogs, social media, and kidlit community events that I’ve listed below.

Most important—we discussed that craft comes first and that if you have trouble with your pitch or query it often means that your manuscript is not quite ready for prime time.

If you missed this class and would like MWPA offer this or other kidlit workshops again, please contact Josh Bodwell, Director of MWPA. Happy writing!

A Few Great Blogs:

Through the Tollbooth: VCFA students who do in depth pieces on craft.

Lynda Mullaly Hunt, Be Someone’s Hero, No Cape Required: Specific connections with literacy, student success, and educators.

Cynthia Leitich Smith, Cynsations: Clearing house of amazing info from the industry including guest bloggers.

Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast: In depth illustrations and illustrators, process, production, and more.

Jama Rattigan, Alphabet Soup: Reviews of food-based books, poetry.

Ingrid Sundberg: Great posts about story structure, screenwriting, and plot.

Pub(lishing) Crawl: Group of authors and industry professionals posting about craft and business.

A Few Great Kidlit Retreats/Resources:

Highlights Founders Workshops

The Writing Barn

Vermont College of Fine Arts

Falling Leaves/Green Leaves from SCBWI Eastern NY

Rutgers One on One

Picture Book Boot Camp with Jane Yolen

SCBWI