Do I have everything?

Yesterday, we were not ready for Monday. My son’s scribbled on homework sheets that they "forgot" were due. We missed the bus. We jumped into the truck but it wouldn’t go. I had to ask my neighbor to take my kiddos to school. My usual Mommy-mobile was at the BWI airport with my husband who took it  at 6 am. That was fine, I figured it didn’t matter what car I had as long as I could get around. After plugging in the truck for a half-hour it started right up. That’s when I realized that the college parking sticker I bought was on the Mommy-mobile too. Ack! The security people at the college were very nice and gave me a temporary pass for the week. 

Today my sons jumped out of bed for waffles and strawberries. They packed their bags. My "organizationally challenged" child utterer the following words, "Do I have everything?"
Illustration by Ian Yates
Illustration by Ian Yates

Yes my friends… self awareness. I hugged him and kissed him. Then he zipped up his backpack, and put on his shoes without me asking. Have we turned a corner? Ask me in a month. 

In conference news…
Special events are filling up quickly so get your registration in. Remember that if spaces fill for something, that offering will not appear on the registration form. novel intensive with Sarah Aronson (thru_the_booth ) is closed. (If you want to be on the waitlist write to shirleydpearson at yahoo dot com) We currently have…drum roll please…185 attendees registered.

In writing news…
I’m still in the waiting room on a PB manuscript and a novel. I’m working on the illustrated dummy book for my collaboration with Joyce Johnson.

In other news…
I’m taking two college classes this semester to further my art knowledge for illustration and to expand my teaching certification to include an Art Educators endorsement. I have the same instructor for both Color Theory and Drawing. She’s a great educator and artist and I look forward to learning a lot.

Finally, it is snowing. There might be a inch but I doubt it. However, it is a big deal for these Southern Maryland folks and I just got a robocall that kids are being sent home 3 hours early. Early? Have you ever heard of such a thing? How are the parents suppose to get off of work and make it home to be there for their kiddos? I have class then. Good grief.

Edited to add:
Turns out the college is closing at noon. You call this snow?

Birthday Wishes

Yesterday, my children and hubby dragged me, kicking and screaming, away from my computer. (Obviously if I kicked and screamed I must be a little looney. Most people would be happy to exchange work for fun.)  We took a little road trip up to Annapolis, had a lovely lunch, strolled the brick and cobblestone streets of the port city, bought comic books, and found awesome candy and pastry shops. At night, I went to book club where the discussion was about Tender at the Bone, by Ruth Reichl. The discussion ended up with a wonderful round of favorite family recipes and food moments. 

This morning, I reopened my computer to find Ooo-gobs (that’s a very specific and scientific value of love and friendship) of birthday wishes via Live Journal and Facebook. Thank you all. Many of you guessed that this was my 29th or 30th birthday. Aren’t you funny. I won’t be 30 again for another two years. 

Seven ways to give

A huge thank you to jamarattigan for the Kreativ Blogger award. I feel honored, especially because my blogging consistency is spotty at best.

Tonight, I blog as I’m about to enter my 38th year. I know. Just a baby you say and in some ways I know you are right. Jama says that this award entitles me to share seven things I love. She also says that I can be "kreativ" so in light of the new president and his call to service, I present seven ways to give. Giving is one thing I love.

1. Become involved with an organization that interests you. It doesn’t have to be a huge bunch of your time. Volunteer to help with a mailing, stuff folders, or pass out papers. (Be careful, once you say yes to one opportunity you are bound to be asked for more. It is okay to say no.)

2. Share your knowledge with others who are new to your area of expertise. You’ll find that as much as you give in this area, you will undoubtedly receive new friendships and unexpected knowledge. A huge thank you to kellyrfineman for her awesome poetry posts. I’ve learned so much from them.

3. Do Pro Bono work. It is difficult to say how much to give in this area because ultimately, you want your work to be compensated fairly. However, building a base of people who know and respect your work is money in the bank, and recommendations on the website. (I know, I haven’t updated mine in a while.) I find this to especially true of school visits. Teachers talk to each other.

4. When in doubt, give food. When I had my first child, my friends gave me dinners to freeze. This was the best thing they could do. If you are willing to organize such an effort, more power to you. If not, fire up your crock pot and invite a friend over for a meal. Or freeze your leftovers for someone who needs the extra time at night. 

5. Give when others are done giving. As previously mentioned, when I had my first child, my friends gave me dinners to freeze. When I had my second child, everyone figured I knew what I was doing. That’s when I needed their help the most. Ask for help when you need it. 

6. Give to the people closest to you. You’re probably saying that you do this all the time. Laundry, dinners, rides, support. Sheesh how much could you possibly give? I can only speak for myself and unfortunately, I’ve been giving my family a lot of "not now’s" and "why can’t you just’s" and "I’m busy’s". That’s okay sometimes, but sometimes I need to stop and give them a hug, a story, and attention. 

7. Don’t forget to give to yourself. Time. A pat on the back. The permission to celebrate you. An hour to exercise. A nap. It’s all good. 

There’s my seven with this addendum. Give honesty and honestly.

Hope it wasn’t too hokey and sappy. 

I guess I need to nominate others for this Kreativ Blogger award. I have to go with those who I always feel I have to catch up with when I’m out of the industry for a while. jbknowles , cynthialord , and  kellyrfineman 

Thanks ladies.

One small step for the Earth

I have two priorities for the April New England SCBWI conference. One is to welcome and include as many different kinds of people as possible. We have a very diverse faculty and I hope that a diverse group of attendees will be drawn to the "Many Voices" conference.

My second priority was to reduce the carbon foot-print of the conference. My goals were to increase recycling, reduce the numbers of water/soda bottles used, and go paperless for the brochure and registration. Because it is the first year that we are doing online registration, all NESCBWI members will get a postcard to point them in the right direction. The online registration will be up and running on January 24th. The tests have gone really well, and we’ve gotten good feedback. Anindita, my co-director, is made of patience and awesome as she has formated the site and tackled the issues and glitches. Today I got the good news from the hotel that, because of my green requests, they will have recycling receptacles for all bottles and the "boxed lunch" boxes for our conference. 

I feel great about these achievements and look forward to seeing you all at the conference. 

Monday Thoughts

Sometimes when I think I have nothing to say, I actually have so much to say that I don’t know where to start. 

My sons have had very little writing in their new school. Everything seems very test driven and rote. They seem to scratch the surface of topics without diving in long enough to really swim in the information or let it soak in their hair. You need this soaking so that the new knowledge can leak out of you drip by drip by drip into assignments certainly, but into your everyday life. The new knowledge needs to be secured to other pieces of information that you already have at your retrieval to stick for good (or at least a good long time).

Writing about what you know requires us to look the information square on and realize what we do NOT know. Where the questions and holes in our information lie. Then, an assignment needs to provide time to fill in those holes. My eldest is dealing with a good writing assignment that has come with little support writing support and even less time spent on research skills. Had I given this assignment, it would take a good month to complete in a classroom and it would include numerous exemplars, group writing time, peer and adult conferences. Maybe I should go back to teaching.

Conference registration goes live online on January 24th. Will we be ready. I sure hope so. The site was in testing phase last week and all the Regional Advisors weighed in with their comments. There is much to work on. I’m a little nervous but know everything will work out fine.

The family is headed to Maine this weekend. I won’t be able to see everyone but hope to see a few people. The kids want to see friends. We are gathering all our bundling clothes and snow pants and the kids are so excited to make snow angels. Me too!
My parents are off to sunshine and warmth in their annual pilgrimage to Puerto Rico. "Glub-glub Mom!" That’s "Have fun, Mom!" in scuba. (That’s Mom on the left.)

Cows. I’ve been thinking in cow for the last couple of months and now I’m busy drawing them. I wake up thinking of cows. Now it is time to leave the computer and go draw. 

Recent Reads

I am embarrassed to say that I am still in my bathrobe. After packing the lunches, signing notes, and buttoning up my children against the wind, I sank back into the covers to read "just one more chapter" of Amy Bloom’s, Away.  Needless to say, it wasn’t one more chapter. It was many and more until the book was done. 

Away, follows the journey of Lillian Leyb, a Jew escaping from the pogroms of Russia to Ellis Island then follows her trip across America to Alaska and back to Russia to find her lost daughter. Bloom’s stream of conscious language sets the rhythm of the twenties, and the rhythm of desperation of the various characters. The characters, from New York Yiddish theatre kings to Seattle Prostitutes, are each flesh and bone and motivation and clothes and relatives and back story and future story and yet… they never take over the story. The reader is always eager to follow Lillian in the next steps of her journey. 

The research for this book must have been fun and hard and long and, I imagine, frustrating at points. The list of acknowledgements is lengthy. I was particularly struck by the symbolism in the text. Scars, in particular. Scars are stories of our pasts and Bloom mines them beautifully. When and to whom do we tell the true stories of our scars? When do we exaggerate? When do we downplay our experiences?Just lovely.

If you have a gift card from a book store, and are looking for a grown-up novel, don’t pass up Away. My husband picked up our copy in the airport and so I waited to read it. Perhaps I was just waiting for a day when no one would stop me from immersing myself in the vibrant world that Bloom creates so skillfully.

Back to work.

Google Images

There seems to be a change in the world of Google images and I suppose it is for the better but I’m going to gripe about it for a moment.
It used to be that I could find a bunch of, let’s say cow images, and then cut and paste them onto a single page and print them out to use as illustration reference. This no longer seems to be possible. Now, when you right click to copy the image, then paste it somewhere else it only pastes the image address. Of course this is great for all the photographers, and illustrators who don’t want their images hijacked and redistributed without their knowledge so I support it. But it does limit reference. Off to the library for cow books.

The Manuscript-a poem

The Manuscript
By Anna J. Boll

Two copies of my WIP
bounce and zip
through Manhattan island
postal machines  
to my agent

This closure
brings lightness.
Removing work.
Cleaning the desk.
Sending it away.
But then you wait.

Waiting is not light
or heavy
but  a spasm,
a knot
twisting your gut
whenever you remember
the WIP
is out of your control.

Perhaps some one is reading it,
or it is in the  to- be- read pile,
or it is in a tote bag
hauled back and forth
on the subway
(are the clean pages now crumpled and coffee stained?),
or maybe
(God forbid)
they didn’t want it in the first place. 

The good thing about waiting
is that it is not yet,


Happy New Year!

 Each year I check the archives and see what I wrote last January.  I’m amused that I was contemplating an MFA a full year ago and that I’m back to the same discussion. It seems a perennial inner conflict. Now to the top 10 high points of 2009.

1. The Move. While it has not been an especially happy highlight, I’d be remiss if I didn’t give it some space. Interestingly, it has become its own character in our family story. The Move and the Job sit on our shoulders a menacing reminder of grown-up decisions. Certainly, we are lucky to have Job and therefore Move was necessary. However, they are the characters that catch your eye in the mystery. Red herring or villan?

2. Old friends. My old writing group disbanded and I moved, but I became even closer with some of my writing buddies. The Schmooze was again a high point as was my collaboration with Joyce. Facebook and my 20th high school reunion allowed me to reconnect with friends of long ago from school and camp. It is good to know that those folks are well.

3. New friends. A move is hard on everyone but I’ve made a few new connections here in Maryland that have helped me through difficult times.

4. Family. The best part of this year has been being physically closer to my family. It has been great for the kids and even better for me to be able to get to see my parents and siblings more often.

5. Freelance work. I really loved writing to deadline and interviewing some amazing military servicemembers and tradesmen and women about their work, and their dreams for the future. To all of those who are away from their families in service to our country I send you wishes of Peace.

6. WRITING. Even though things have been crazy (the move, freelance work, the conference) I have continued to write. I finished and revised a novel for submission, revised a PB for an editor (still waiting to hear), and collaborated on a new PB.

7. The election. What an amazing year for a political junkie. The results. I’m confident that President Obama will bring honesty, and intelligence to the office and restore our standing in the world even if he cannot "fix" the great number of issues that plague us.

8. The 2008 NE SCBWI conference. While it is a ton of work, being involved in the regional SCBWI on this level is incredibly rewarding. I loved working with our fabulous volunteers, meeting industry professionals, and seeing it all come together. See you April 24-26, 2009 for this year’s conference. Note: registration will happen online, and participation will be limited to the first 400 registrants. Watch the mail for your informational postcard and come mid-January.

9. My kiddos. From piano to  poetry, plays to playoffs this has been a big year for my children. I’ve so enjoyed watching them solve problems, try new things, excel, grow and question the world. I’m very proud of them.

10. I got an agent! I am very thankful that Steve Fraser is such a supportive agent. It has been difficult for me to release control of the manuscript marketing piece but letting go is part of shaping a relationship. The other is communication and honesty. I found that when I was straightforward about my needs, I felt more comfortable about representation.

The year is brandy new and I’m looking forward to all that it has to offer.