Moxie

Last night I gathered some of my most supportive women for a Moxie watch party to celebrate where we are now–in life, in our careers, in our parenting, and in our feminism. I had loved the book by Jennifer Mathieu and have been eager to see the film since I’d heard that Amy Poehler would be directing it.

We filled up the chat bar with our texts–cheers for the young women as they fight the patriarchy and transform, eye rolling when the stupid adults were stupid, cheers for the romantic male lead, boos for the villain and the administrator who ignores her duties, fists raised for the inclusion of intersectional feminism and LGBTQ representation, gasps when the inevitable shocking plot-twist appeared. Perhaps it was, as this NYT reviewer says, “unfocused and too often unbelievable,” but for us, that was the point.

We can all point to too many real-life f-ed up news stories (Brock Turner, Brett Kavanaugh, Trump) that I saw symbolized by Patrick Schwarzenegger’s beautiful villain in Netflix’s Moxie. Everyday there are new #metoo situations in the news and others that we only hear about in whisper campaigns. As a parent I have felt ineffectual when I heard after-the-fact that sexual assault and harassment issues infected the schools to which I sent my own children. These stories and the patriarchy have beaten us down over the years taking away our hope that anything will be better anytime soon. As a white-woman I am tired of losing, yet when I feel that I have lost, I know that there are others that have lost even more. So I was absolutely fine, buoyed in fact, when I could lose myself in this feminist Quasi-Fantasy*, with my glass of wine and my girlfriends. Says one girlfriend:

Anna, is there a word for quasi-fantasy*?  That’s how it felt to me. Simplistic kind of on purpose, just giving us the gift of more ease since we live the BS of reality. Quasi-Buffy but instead of slaying vampires they slayed football players with Zines.  

The alternative reality that props us up for another day.  Shows like Madame Secretary make me feel that way too, or Wonder Woman.  Just a bit where we get to pretend the work could be easier and we could get our vindication and dance party at the end of the damn day

-K.C.S.

YES! Let me stand akimbo with my lasso of truth. I am aching for that dance party where I can thrash about, that catharsis when in the movie when Lucy challenges the book list, that passionate release when Lucy and Amaya kiss, how sexy it is when Seth asks for consent, the power when Vivian finds her voice, and the chilling hope when the students who walk out scream in chorus.

The book Moxie and others you might like (Dress Coded, Fighting Words, Maybe He Just Likes You) tell stories that are more nuanced than the Netflix version. I highly recommend them to both adults and young readers. For educators and parents, please take a look at the resource: 100 School Districts: A Call to Action for School Districts Across the Country to Address Sexual Harassment Through Inclusive Policies and Practices from the National Women’s Law Center.

If you are experiencing or have experienced sexual assault, please call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673) to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.

My Book Birthday! This Pup Steps Up! A dog book for kids.

Arf, yip, yap, bark! Today is my book birthday for This Pup Steps Up! A dog book for kids.

After a long social media roll-out with a cover reveal…

Happy Birthday Book Baby!

…and a puppy countdown…

The print book is available!!!

Shamrock is twirling for joy! Thanks Shamrock!

In my last post, I discussed how I compose my rhyme. It’s a tricky thing to get rhyme right and it doesn’t just appear fully formed on the page. I showed this image of my notes:

This scribble with cross-outs, word lists, and prose eventually (with a lot of reading aloud) turned into this:

The rhyming couplets are rhythmic and great for early learners (0-3) as well emergent readers (3-6).

While my editors and I are responsible for the text, I couldn’t be more pleased with the design and photo illustrations. I’m grateful to the graphic designers at Callisto Media and Rockridge Press for making this book diverse, fun, and engaging for young readers.

The book is currently available on Amazon but if you are a bookseller or book buyer at an independent bookstore, please contact me and I’ll put you in touch with the right people!

Please follow me on my Author Page or on Instagram where I’ll be sharing a few more spreads from the book. If you purchase a book, (especially with a dog or young reader) I’d love for you to tag me @annawritedraw or use #thispupstepsup!

New Year, new book: THIS PUP STEPS UP! available for preorder.

It’s a brand new year and I have a new book launching on January 19th!

THIS PUP STEPS UP! A Dog Book for Kids is a rhyming picture book with fabulous graphic design and photo illustrations of the cutest pups. It’s perfect for 0-3-year olds. Preorder yours today.

If you’ve been following me on Instagram or if you’ve liked my Facebook Author Page, you know that I had some fun revealing the cover of the book over a full week followed by a book giveaway.

The real joy though was in writing the book. During the most difficult parts of 2020, I was able to research dogs and search for puppy pictures. I watched a lot of dog videos including many that showed the training for guide, support, and hearing dogs. All those loyal balls of fluff gave me comfort when things felt overwhelming.

Rhyming couplets sometimes came easily but other times they were difficult. Forced rhymes, rhymes that don’t scan well, or rhymes that don’t convey the correct meaning, are the bane of a writer’s existence. You can see in this bit of my notes that I often start by brainstorming and writing out in prose what I hope to ultimately convey in rhyme.

In the days to come, I’ll be sharing the actual final page that came from these notes. I hope that you’ll step up with your own doggy pictures as I count down to the on-sale date, January 19, 2021! Please tag me @annawritedraw or use the hashtag #ThisPupStepsUp.

#WNDB: supply and demand in education.

Throughout my tenure at Books of Wonder, my responsibilities shifted and evolved. When Covid-19 forced the store to close and left me jobless, the work was perfectly in line with my personal values. I had become the school outreach manager—a job that seamlessly wove together school & library marketing, professional development trainer, and event planning .

I collaborated with parent volunteers and our school book fair book buyer to create book fair events unique to each school community. I created timelines for the events, handled logistics, and managed sales staff for the book fairs.

I booked authors for school events and created an educator night at the store for publishers to pitch their newest titles.

But the aspect of my job that I really loved was meeting with teachers and administrators to talk about the importance of diverse books. We talked about the Lee & Low Baseline Survey and the CCBC statistics and infographic. I pitched the newest #ownvoices titles and made a few sales. We had honest conversations about parents who might throw up obstacles to LGBQIA+ content. (Most often, the administrators who invited me in said, “Send them to me.”)

Now, I’m thrilled to see that lists (that have existed for a long time) of #ownvoices books are making the rounds on social media. Educators are jumping in and that’s a great thing because increasing and constant school & library demand for these books will ensure that they continue to be published.

I have long advocated for changes to required reading lists to include newer and more diverse titles but there are a series of arguments that keep these lists frozen in time. (BTW: You can replace “lists” with “classroom libraries” in all of the following arguments.) Some of these lists are frozen in time with the excuse that the books on them appear on state and national tests. Some of them are frozen in time because the school has class-sets of those books and has not/will not allocate resources for new titles. Some say they cannot change the list because the books are “classics.” (I urge those teachers to ask themselves, classic for whom?) Some think that because their classrooms are filled with majority white students, that their lists are just fine. Some say they just don’t have the time.

But some of them are frozen in time because educators are used to teaching those books or feel like an imposter teaching other books.

A couple of stories:

  1. I once taught at a school where a teacher had a file of 180 index cards each with her daily teaching plan. She was a veteran teacher, and while I don’t know how long she’d been using those cards, she didn’t deviate from her plans in the five years I taught at that school. That meant any student-led inquiry had to be contained within her box of index cards.
  2. I advocated for new more diverse literature to be added to my son’s AP English required reading in 2017. My plea started when I saw the list at an open house and continued back and forth with the teacher and my school board member until the teacher finally emailed this:

Teachers, at least teachers like me, select art from an extremely personal place. I am not capable of teaching certain books well, because I don’t have a deep connection to them. 

AND:

Since your question at open house I have been trying to nail down why I don’t teach more authors of color; why I don’t feel a strong enough connection to many authors who are not white Europeans. The answer is simple: I’m a white woman, educated in Canada and Europe, with a focus on Slavic languages (still white, though).  The literature I know I can teach well (which may be different from the stuff I read) comes out of those European traditions.

AND Finally:

The other truth that rushed in before I shut the door on this insight was that what we need isn’t so much white, middle-class ladies teaching about the African or Hispanic or Asian experience to our very white population, which always seemed a little fishy to me–what we need is to hire teachers of color. That is the perspective we are actually missing, in my opinion. 

Absolutely, schools that hire all white faculty need to do better. But in my opinion, that is not an excuse to rob all children from reading widely. To me, teaching literature, teaching anything really, is not about knowing everything. It is about curiosity, passion, lifelong learning, and being vulnerable to new learning in a way that inspires your students to do the same.

If your reaction to updating your required reading lists, your classroom libraries, and your curriculum is, “I don’t know enough about these books,” here are some suggestions.

  • Use this summer as an opportunity for professional development and take a Black, Latinx, LGBTQ+ literature class at your local university.
  • Read more.
  • Research more.
  • Invite local scholars to talk to the class and pay them.
  • Plan virtual visits to museums that highlight the author, history, or the culture depicted in the text.
  • Plan virtual author visits and pay the authors.

Or…say to your students on day one. “This year we are changing our required reading list and I’m learning too. Over the next three weeks we will come up with a list of criteria together, do research, and change this list to reflect diverse, high-quality, literature.” Students are amazing. They are demanding change.

And where there is demand, there needs to be supply.

#BlackLivesMatter: Call your elected officials and vote.

Dear Friends,

Because of the massive Black Lives Matter protests, we may (finally) have a moment for real change at the highest levels. Everyone needs to write to their senators to express their support to increase funding for programs that have a foundational effect on communities: healthcare, housing, youth services, and education. A shift in priorities requires the money to come from somewhere.

For years upon years, we (primarily white people) have supported candidates who shifted monies from these community-building programs into expanding and militarizing the police, incarcerating Americans generally, and Black Americans specifically.

Together, we have built a culture that pours money into the hands of corporate prisons, detention centers, home detention, and bail on the backs of the Black community.

We have defunded conflict de-escalation, social work, education, health, addiction treatment, and mental health. For years it was under the guise of “balancing the budget” and “lowering the debt.” Since monies were always found for more weapons here and abroad, that seems (to use a military term) like a smoke screen.

And now, when we as a people are saying that we want to shift those monies, shift those priorities, the Senate majority is talking about needing yet another study. Enough is Enough.

We have had study after study. It is time to listen to the people. Democrats, it’s time to go big. It is not time to pussyfoot around the issue with minor fixes to placate swing state voters. We need to ask for everything we want—an anti-racist society.

We must keep pushing through to November when we can flip the Senate and get a new president who will sign a bill that makes substantial changes to the racist allocation of funds that support our systems.

If you don’t want to call it “Defund the Police” call it something else. I offer, The Investment for a Better Future bill or the Trying to Undo Some Bad Shit bill. I don’t care. What I do care about is that this is not the America I’ve been working to give to my children or your children.

We can do better. We must do better. Please register to vote. Please vote. Please call your Senators and Representatives today or test “Resist” to 50409 and the bot will help you get in touch with your elected officials.

Quaranterms

I’ve been enjoying the journaling prompts from Suleika Jaouad’s, Isolation Journals Project. Day 56 (for the project) prompted that we coin terms appropriate for our times ala the Washington Post’s longstanding neologisms. Here are my ten in alphabetical order.

Cattoyitis: the persistent condition of purchasing various cat toys and scratching posts (often from Instagram) in the hopes that one might engage your cat in independent play and keep it from scratching the couch to hell. All attempts are likely to fail. (see KittyMommyDearest)

DoleScroll: the act of constantly looking and re-looking for job postings in your field of work when you are unemployed due to quarantine. You know that people rarely get posted jobs, but you do it anyway instead of stalking your LinkedIn network.

FelineThistemper: cat behavior characterized by random hand biting or scratching. Often happens during forced Cattoyitis play sessions with KittyMommyDearest.

KittyMommmyDearest: when an otherwise kind, caring cat parent rages at their cat for misbehavior which is actually just the cat being a cat. Exacerbated by constant isolation with only said cat for company which leads one to believe the cat has human reasoning skills (if/then).

Muffintopless: walking around the apartment with jeans unbuttoned and unzipped. The jeans fit fine in March.

NewsBlues: feeling you get from ingesting too much negative news. (see Newsopti)

Newsopti: person who is ever hopeful that the next time they check the news there will be a vaccine, miraculous cure for COVID19, or that humans will be kind to each other and the Earth. (see NewsBlues)

Overhold: the process of putting a hold on too many e-books from the public library’s Libby App and not reading them.

Taxjolt: the realization that the potponed tax deadline approacheth.

WoeisMomMe: 1. the angst of being isolated away from your children. 2. the eye-roll inducing requests from a mother for increased communication by said children.

5 Naps To Master for Fame and Fortune

I can sleep anywhere—anytime. 

My father used to assure me that this was a very important skill especially if one was a soldier. In WWII one had to be able to sleep standing up or sitting down, night or day, five minutes or fifty, tired or not because you never knew when you’d have time to sleep horizontally in a true bed when the moon and stars were out. 

I appreciated his approval in all things but pursued this skill with a passion, so today, I’m pleased to avail you of five types of naps you’ll want to learn to be successful in life whether or not you are interested in military service. 

  1. The Cat Nap: No cat is necessary for this nap but sunshine is critical. People often misunderstand this nap as a short sleep but nothing could be further from the truth. A cat nap can last as long as the sun warms the napping space. I’ve been known to take these naps on a dock, a patio, a window seat, and on a horse (Don’t try this at home). Like a feline friend, the secret of the cat nap is to a) not care about others and their use of the sun drenched space and b) to be able to wake quickly if threatened. Stretch to your full length permitted by the space. Allow the sun to warm your limbs. Become one with the sleeping surface. Beginning nappers who say they cannot sleep during the day need not try this one.
  2. Resting Your Eyes: To the everyday viewer, a person who is “resting their eyes” seems to have just recently drifted off to sleep. The accoutrement of daily life is still present. The glasses you wear are still on your face, your book is still open (or the book you were reading to your child), your final paper is open on your computer, the movie is on, or the newspaper is still on your lap (the paper kind or a tablet version). During an otherwise productive moment your eyelids seem to have been replaced by weighted blankets and there’s no way you can keep them open. Your head droops and the next thing you know your child, spouse, partner, friend is jabbing you in the ribs and telling you you were snoring. Check for drool and tell them, “I was just resting my eyes.”
  3. The Idea Nap: Einstein, Dali and others have been listed as proponents of creative productivity naps. I too like to take idea naps when I’ve come to a question or roadblock in my own creative writing. This type of nap takes some preparation. First, create the optimum napping environment. For me (as previously mentioned) that means anywhere but other less accomplished nappers may need low lights, a comfy pillow, and a soft, warm blanket. Close your eyes. Ask your question to the universe. Example: “WTF is supposed to happen next in the novel I’m writing.” Breathe deeply and imagine the question hovering just above your third eye. When you wake, it will be much later in the day and time to put away your work. Problem solved.
  4. The Bathtub Nap: Like the nap on the horse referenced above, this requires advanced napping skills as you don’t want to drown. A certain body type is advantageous. My own body is quite long and doesn’t fit in any normal bathtub. That doesn’t stop me from taking baths so warm that my white skin pinks—similar to a boiled lobster. Anyhow, I’m rarely concerned that I will slide under the water. You may find this nap is easier to achieve if you consider it a subset of the “resting your eyes” nap and pair the bath with a book, magazine, or glass of wine. Once the steam does its trick you may find you skip the heavy-eyelids step entirely. Next thing you know, you’re as wrinkled as a raisin and not at all clean. Warning: tell a housemate to check in on you if the bath goes on past an hour.
  5. The Quarantine Nap: COVID19, the novel Corona virus, has given us access to what may seem like a novel nap but actually it is just a tumbleweed of tried and true mental health manifestations including stress, isolation, anxiety, and depression. The Quarantine nap often starts as any one of the taxonomy of naps above but upon waking, the napper looks at the clock, notices how many hours in the day still have to be filled, and chooses to go back to sleep. This can continue any number of times. Resting one’s eyes can become a cat nap when the sunbeam hits which can become an idea nap when the sun shifts and can become a quarantine nap when one decides that the day would be better off done. Movement from one piece of furniture to the next is standard. This nap is harder to accomplish with children in the house. See your doctor if your Quarantine Nap lasts a week or longer.

There you have it. The art of the nap. By the way, I have earned neither fame nor fortune with these skills but if you manage to leverage naps into either, at least credit me when you are rich. 

Remnants from another life

After two full weeks of being inside
only
inside,
and tripping over my backpack
in the entrance nook
on the way to the kitchen
multiple times,
I decide to empty it for storage.
I find
a small hairbrush
earrings
lip balm
nail clippers
dental floss
mint gum
a bandaid
pain medication
wrappers from a used roll of Tums
a Diva cup
multicolored pens
my work planner
a New Yorker with a spring illustration cover
a new monthly MTA fare card
and

hand sanitizer.