Finding Joy after Sandy Hook Shooting

The massacre at Sandy Hook  Elementary has become yet another where-were-you-when moment in my lifetime. I will always know that I was in the Jai Yoga Studio making a new commitment to take care of myself a little better, and to find and follow the light of joy within me.

News of the shooting extinguished any joy I may have found during that yoga class, and like many writers, I turned to words to ease my pain of the senseless violence. (It’s raw, I know, but so are the feelings. Please don’t give feedback on the poem.)

Anna J. Boll 12/14/12

the sun is too bright.
A smile,
a giggle,
strains of joyful music,
seem to betray allegiance
to the parents at Sandy Hook.

20 children dead
10 days before Christmas
Their gifts wrapped
Never to be opened
What right have I to cry?

Cry for the country
cry for the world
tears of shame and anger

bullets fly
hope lost
dreams cut short
And again
love turns to grief

I slip into scalding water
Numb to the pain.

My son slept in my bed that night and I’m not sure who was more comforted.

Since Friday, I have been moving on, caring for my children, preparing for the holidays, writing and attending yoga. The meditation and breathing has helped me remember that one of the most powerful things we can do is to bring our own goodness to the world. To be kind, respectful, and understanding. To care for others. To nourish ourselves so we can bring our best to the world. To honor the light in ourselves and others.

This weekend I gave a woman at the post office the .31 cents she needed, I opened the door for an older man, I lifted the front of a stroller for a young mother. I wrote a thank you letter, I called a relative. These and many other small good deeds add up.

“How far that little candle throws his beams, so shines a good deed in a weary world,” William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice.

5 Ways You Can Help Sandy Hook Shooting Victims.

Friends at VCFA are gathering books on grief into lists for the librarians at Sandy Hook. There are some here. SCBWI-NE is making a donation for nonfiction books.

What are you doing to heal?

Has writing lost its joy?

The other day I went for my first psychic reading and there were many moments during the hour that I was completely blown away by her uncanny knowledge of me and my family.

Okay. I know that half of you are spitting chewed pretzels into your hand as you laugh hysterically. Don’t burst my little bubble here. Just go with it.  I also know the other half of you are nodding your head quietly. Either you’ve had a reading or you’ve always wanted to.

I’ve always wanted to. I’m a very head oriented person so I bring a healthy dose of skepticism with me, but I also grew up in the New Age 80’s near Takoma Park, MD and went to the Western hills of North Carolina each summer. (Yes I had a pouch with crystals and spent some time in a sweat lodge.)

As I’ve aged into Motherhood, and adult responsibilities I’ve grown out of those practices. According to the psychic– I’ve also lost my intuition and my joy.

My intuition helped me make decisions that led me on the path to joy. My decision to go to VCFA was very intuitive. It was completely the right thing to do. I looked at Ingrid’s Notes the other day and saw her amazing list of accomplishments. A year out of school, intensely focussed on revising and marketing my manuscript, I had to remind myself that just last year I had a similar list. VCFA doesn’t talk about the market. They don’t talk about agents or publishing if they can help it. Coming into the school I hated the practice. What was I paying for if not a route to publication? Now I pine for the focus on craft, the feedback of trusted advisors, the regular visits with people I love and trust. If only I could have that safe space again.

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As much as I might want to, I can’t go back to VCFA as a student. (I’m still paying off loans.) What I can do is remember the joy of writing. I can believe that I have all the resources I need to be successful. I can let go of my fear and anxiety. Write more. Trust my intuition (muse) in my work.

How do you rekindle the joy in your work?

Illustrator Hints from Publisher Dean Lunt of Islandport Press

On Wednesday I had the pleasure of Dean Lunt’s company. Dean is the Publisher of Islandport Press which publishes titles for Children and Young Adults such as:


Dean and I had a great conversation about the ever-changing publishing industry, book marketing in general, and personal marketing for illustrators specifically.

Dean says that a marketing postcard from a job seeking illustrator every six months is the most useful tool for the publisher. To make your marketing postcard effective it needs to meet the following criteria:

  1. Feature a fresh new image each time you send a publisher a marketing postcard.
  2. Include your contact information on the postcard.
  3. Include the link to your online portfolio.
  4. Categorize your online portfolio by media, type, or subject (eg: collage v. pen and ink, color v. black & white, children’s v. editorial) for ease of navigation.
  5. Update your website. The “News” section should have recent, relevant info. Images should be fresh.
  6. Size pictures for quick viewing.  A lower resolution makes for smaller file sizes and 72 DPI is all that is needed to look good on a computer screen.

If you get the call and sign on to a project, be aware that one doesn’t stop being a children’s book illustrator when the artwork is delivered. Dean is always looking for illustrators who have the energy for school visits, signing, and other marketing events.

Interested in submitting to Islandport Press? Here are the guidelines. View the brand new Islandport Press YouTube Channel!

Four score and seven years ago… Memorization in School

Son #1 has to memorize Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address for Social Studies class.

He doesn’t want to. Actually, he’s already memorized paragraphs one and two, it is three that is the doozy.

“Why do I have to memorize this?” he says. “I could understand if I had to explain the meaning of the speech or write an essay on it’s effects on the Civil War. Why memorization?”

I can understand his concern and applaud his assignment suggestions which encourage critical thinking.

I’ll admit that as a teacher I’ve asked children to memorize poetry, or the preamble to the US Constitution. I’m a big fan of Poetry Outloud and part of my motivation (for mandatory student memorization) comes from a romantic notion planted by the Dead Poet’s Society movie (that’s a link to video BTW). I imagine my students theatrically presenting literary moments in history. But there is more. As they memorize, I hope that they internalize the rhythms of the language and the meaning of the piece. It’s true, that in these situations, I spend quite a bit of time dissecting what ever needed to be memorized.

What do you think? Memorization yes or no? Is there something you had to memorize in Middle School that you still know?

Lunafest: Short films by, for, and about women

On Saturday night I had the pleasure of attending the Lunafest event at the Friends School of Portland. Lunafest is a series of short films by, for, and about women. The films were wonderful– poignant, touching, sad, happy, inspiring.

One of my favorite films was “Flawed,” by Andrea Dorfman. There’s a snippet of it here. Probably it was the picture book nature of the film that captured my creative side(she uses time lapse photography as she illustrates the story), but it was the story itself (about how she learns accepts herself– her largish nose specifically) that grabbed at my heart and wouldn’t let go. All of the films had something about them that I connected with deeply, but the most important take-away was much, much bigger.

I am a proud feminist and my sons are about sick of me drumming for more equality in the media. Still, it only takes one look at films like Miss Representation, or the work from Equal Visibility Everywhere- EVE,  or studies commissioned by Geena Davis’s organization See Jane?, or the literary work by VIDA to understand that there is still serious work to be done to achieve parity in media. Here’s the thing though, even as I drum for equality, I don’t what that equality looks like. I swim in the same clichéd, stereotypical, sexpot, happy homemaker, bitchy, ambitious, white, dragon lady, black housekeeper, bull shit that everyone else does. At Lunafest, my eyes were opened to what a different view of women could be– diverse, honest, vulnerable, loving, strong, tenacious. It is rare that we get to see that woman in mainstream media. 

Take a look at the Lunafest TrailerIf your organization is looking for a fundraiser with a head and heart, consider applying to host a screening of Lunafest. I promise, you’ll be glad you did it.