Get your head in the game.

It is the Wednesday after vacation, and I’m having a hard time getting my head in the game. I haven’t written in a while due to work I’ve been doing for Creative Bookings but each day I don’t write feels like a tiny puzzle piece of me gets shoved under the couch by mistake– lost until someone discovers it in a mound of dust bunnies, dog toys, and lone sweaty boy socks.  Luckily, NESCBWI is coming up. I know I can count on the conference for 1 part inspiration, 2 parts love and support, and 1 part alone time.

IMG_1436

 

The change in weather has been especially difficult. Driving home on the east coast I went from summer and palm trees in Florida, to beautiful wild flowers in South Carolina, to dogwood trees in Virginia, to redbud trees in Maryland, to new leaves and flowering fruit trees in New York City…

IMG_1473

Look at how beautiful Central Park was!

to forsythia in Connecticut, to um… tree limbs that barely have buds in Maine. It’s been cold and crappy here. Anyway. As my father says. Buck up, Sport!

OTHER RANDOM NYC PICS:

IMG_1461

Everybody wants something in New York City. This squirrel was totally hamming it up for us. I missed the picture when s/he stood up on her/his hind legs, but you get the eagerness here, right?

 

IMG_1446

Oh, Lego engineers. You are full of awesome. By the way, Liberty Island is closed until July 4th and Ellis Island is closed indefinitely due to Hurricane Sandy.

Vacation Post

I’ve been on the Gulf Coast of Florida for almost a week now. The kids have done a lot of fishing with Grandpa in the back coves and mangroves. I’ve been for a few long walks and yoga classes (shout out to the fabulous yogis at Joyful Yoga in Estero!). We’ve all luxuriated in a hot tub. Nothing to complain about at all – except… it has been awfully humid here. When we woke this morning, I walked out onto our sea view balcony (bliss) and there were huge puddles in the parking lot. Whatever rain fell, it was big enough to push out the humid air and leave dry cool breezes behind. The sky looked as if someone had sprayed it with Windex and polished it until it sparkled blue. The sea, which had been rolling and choppy was calm with gentle waves lapping at the sand.

IMG_1434

What am I watching on vacation?

  • The Dark Knight Rises
  • Frankenweenie
  • Aloha Fluffy

What am I reading on vacation?

  • BALL DON’T LIE, Matt de la Peña. Absolutely fabulous. Don’t miss it.
  • I’m rereading Lisa Jahn-Clough’s upcoming release NOTHING BUT BLUE. (I’m writing the discussion questions for it and I’m more in love with the main character the second time around.)
  • Next up, WHERE’D YOU GO, BERNADETTE. Hilarious trailer for the book here:

 

I’m Thankful for Digital Hugs

Even though I had a week before the big reveal to digest the news that I was one of the winners of the PEN New England Susan P. Bloom Children’s Discovery award, I was not quite prepared for the outpouring of digital love that came my way. My blog and twitter feed gained followers, I gained friends on Facebook, and I heard from friends who haven’t contacted me in years. My comment boards lit up, and for a moment I thought, “Oh my, everything has changed.” That was until I opened up my WIP, stared at a blank page on Scrivener, and slapped myself upside the head. The hard work, joy, and pain of writing haven’t changed one bit.

What has changed is that I get a moment to celebrate. After a particularly difficult year that often felt hopeless, I find myself with a group of growing businesses serving authors and illustrators. I get to read a manuscript that I love in front of members of a community that have taught and nurtured me. I’m in this situation because the difficult things forced me to expose my writing and myself to the universe in a way that I had not been brave enough to try in the past. (Note to self– no one can see your awesome manuscript if it sits on your desk.) Yes, the universe works in mysterious ways.

I also get a chance to be recognized in my community of writers for my writing. Here’s the thing about our community and SCBWI in particular. There’s no one standing at the door telling new authors or illustrators they can’t come in. You can be in a room full of 1000 people at a national conference and have no idea who can write well and who is new to the craft. This allows people to be welcomed and safe, while they learn and grow. I’m grateful for this, and I’m grateful for the community of writers, illustrators, librarians and teachers who gave me a digital hug this week. Thank you all for your kindness.

Huge News! Pen New England Susan P. Bloom Children’s Book Discovery Award Winner– ME!

I am pleased thrilled ecstatic to announce that on April 1st I was informed that my YA manuscript about a rower who has a secret romance with her crew coach, CONTROL. CRUSH., won the PEN New England Susan P. Bloom Discovery Award! I’m sure that this was not an April Fools joke because soon after, I began to get wonderful congratulatory notes from other writers in our community whose work I respect and admire.

So what’s the big deal about this award and what is PEN New England anyway? The Susan P. Bloom Children’s Book Discovery Award honors emerging writers and illustrators and is given to a New England resident for an unpublished work. This year, the award was given to TWO emerging writers. I’m so happy to say that I’ll be sharing this award with Katherine Quimby. I’ve known Kathy for many years through SCBWI. Kathy and I share an alma mater, she’s in her third semester at Vermont College of Fine Arts; I graduated in July of 2011 – we’ll share this award! 

Kathy and I will read from our manuscripts at the awards ceremony tentatively scheduled for Sunday, May 19th at 6:30 pm at Lesley. If you are in the Boston area, I hope you’ll come. If you’re not able to make it, don’t worry. We’ll both be at the NESCBWI Annual Conference in Springfield. Please stop me and say hello!

As part of the award, our manuscripts will be submitted to a participating publisher. I’m so thankful to the committee for this opportunity to get my work in front of industry professionals. I’ve been on this journey for over ten years – long enough to know that I’d write even if I never got published. Perhaps that’s the moment when things begin to change for a writer. Still, I can tell you that I’ve had plenty of dark and doubting moments when I thought I should just give it all up.

There is something to be said for making your dreams known the universe, for putting yourself out there, for taking a chance. I’d wanted to submit manuscripts for this award for the past three years and missed the deadline. This year, the deadline snuck up on me again. Luckily, through a snafu, I was able to get my work to the committee, and I’m so glad I did! The email about this award came at the perfect time, and I couldn’t be happier.

PEN (poets, playwrights, essayists, editors, and novelists) New England is the most active chapter of PEN American Center which is part of PEN International– a literary community celebrating literature and protecting free expression. “The P.E.N. Club,” founded in London in 1921 by Mrs. C. A. Dawson Scott, a Cornish novelist, and John Galsworthy, a well-known literary figure, was borne out of Mrs. Dawson Scott’s “unshakable conviction that if the writers of the world could learn to stretch out their hands to each other, the nations of the world could learn in time to do the same.”

Introducing… Creative Bookings!

If you are a regular Creative Chaos reader, you know that I write for children and young adults. I also offer Creative Services for other authors and illustrators including Creative Curriculum (reader and teacher guide development), and Creative Freelance (editing and writing services). Today, Lucy and I have news about more chaos coming to Creative Chaos – Creative Bookings

Creative Bookings is boutique booking agency that I own and operate. I arrange school, library, conference, and event bookings for select children’s authors and illustrators. My  award-winning clients offer a variety of presentations appropriate for students, librarians, educators, parents, writers, and illustrators. Together they present a diverse mix of writing and illustrating styles, genres, and specialties to meet the needs of a wide audience. They include: Anne Sibley O’Brien, Brenda Reeves Sturgis, Cathryn Falwell, David Elliott, Hazel Mitchell, and Melanie Crowder.

If you are a teacher, librarian, SCBWI RA, or other kidlit conference/event planner, I hope that you’ll keep me and my clients in mind. My clients are wonderful, and Lucy says that I’m  tasty  friendly, organized, and flexible too.

IMG_1429 IMG_1430 IMG_1431 IMG_1432
(Out takes from the photo shoot welcoming new clients to Creative Bookings.)

My new venture would not be possible without the help of Kirsten Cappy at Curious City Books, and I thank her. Curious City is a children’s book consulting company building creative marketing projects and outreach for authors, illustrators, and publishers focused on engaging readers with story.

In Defense of a Liberal Arts Degree

This morning, LinkedIn sent me its “Top News for Anna” aggregation. The topics they tend to send me range from education, to jobs, to publishing. I clicked on the following– Why a BA is Now a Ticket to A Job in a Coffee Shop. The article includes quick research, a few graphs, and some spotty assumptions, but I found the reader comments most interesting.

Readers of the Daily Beast are well-spoken, and they don’t hold back. Comments tend to break down in favor of or against the opinions expressed in the original article– then there are the tangential arguments. The tangent that piqued my interest this morning was STEM education vs. Liberal Arts training.

STEM folks generally argue that the degreed students working as baristas have an English, sociology, or some other humanities-based degree. If they had only spent their loans on getting an engineering or some other tech-based degree they’d have a job. These commenters opine that the reason we hire so many international workers is because well-trained American’s are hard or impossible to find.

I do not doubt the truth of these arguments, but 1) there are many reasons for the underemployment mess we are in and 2) there is value in the liberal arts degree.

I teach adult students English. My classes help them improve their skills so that they can place out of remedial college courses that cost money but do not give them college credits. They each have different dreams and paths. Some hope to leave menial or physically taxing work as they age. Some need a college degree to move up in their current work. Many are middle-aged women whose husbands had affairs, abused them, or decided they were done with marriage. They are looking for gainful employment that will keep them above the poverty line. My students often see college as a path to specific work because these days– that is how college is marketed.

I teach my students how important it is, in an age of text communication, to be able to read and write. I teach them how to read critically, how to question, how to make connections, how to cite their resources. I teach them to discern the thesis of a paper, to engage a reader, to support an argument. I teach them that words matter, that everyone brings something important to a discussion, that the opinion you’ve held forever can and will be challenged. This is the value of education for education sake.

Because of ongoing and high unemployment rates, employers have a pool of applicants that is both deep and wide. They sort and discard resumes for narrow criteria. No masters degree? Out. The wrong BA? Out. Not enough experience? Out. Too much experience? Out. They have no reason to give a chance to someone who doesn’t meet their narrow view of “highly qualified.” I say to them– beware.

The world of work is swiftly changing. The technical degree we need desperately today may be obsolete tomorrow. A liberal arts degree graduates critical and creative thinkers. These workers– no, these humans are life long learners who deftly transfer their knowledge from one field and apply it to another. Hire them to sit with your STEM trained employees, and there is no limit to what can be created. We only succeed as a society when we nurture and value everyone’s gifts and knowledge.