What a day!

This morning, I see that there is mouse poop in my pantry. It’s true that I’ve heard the pitter patter of little feet around midnight. They seem to tromp back and forth across the first floor ceiling. I figured that I’d wait till after winter and call an exterminator. But this morning, I sweep up the pantry floor and realize that the dirt there is actually mouse poop, and that there’s more on the cookie shelf along with bits of foil wrap, but not just any foil wrap—Girl Scout Samoas foil wrap. Oh no, Ma’am. In the ceiling next to the HVAC duct is a classic mouse hole or two. So I’m taking things out of the pantry, and throwing a lot away, and taking other items out of their packaging and putting them in reusable containers and wincing because my hip has been hurting.

The phone rings, and it’s the assistant at the doctors, and do I want a 10:30 appointment from a cancellation? Since it isn’t snowing that hard and it’s right around the corner, I jump at the chance. When I get there, the doctor is running 30 min late. Then she sends me for a xray. Then she tries to get me in to see the sports doctor right away (read: 30 or 45 minutes later). Then the sports doctor’s assistant comes out and apologizes and says really, they’ll be an extra 45 minutes. I say I need to go home to eat something, and I’ll be right back.

However, while I’m at home, son #1 calls. He stopped to get me the mouse traps I asked for but they only have poison, which I don’t want, but while he was in the store, he left the heat and radio going for his brother, without keeping the car running, and now the battery is dead and can I come give them a jump.

So I stop eating and get in my hybrid and go to help them. The wind has whipped up quite a bit, and I need to get back to my appointment, and my hybrid hood battery only seems to have a positive point. I can’t make anything happen so I bring the boys home and go back to the doctor.

The sports doc sees me and basically diagnoses that my hip hurts. She has some idea where the pain is coming from, but it’s hard to really tell with soft tissue. Predictably, I’ll need to take ibuprofen or Aleve and find some time in my schedule for physical therapy.

I tell my son I’m on the way home and he says that the AAA guy is headed to the car so come pick him up. I do and when we get to the car, the wind is gusting, and the snow is coming down about two inches and hour. Now that the AAA guy is there, my son can’t seem to pop the hood. He tries, and tries, and finally the plastic inside hood lever breaks off the cable. We are SOL. The AAA guy calls a tow truck and says it’ll be an hour. So I take my kid home and go back to wait the hour and there’s the tow guy! The car is already up on the truck, and he’s about to leave with it. Luckily I intercept him and let him know to take it to the shop and not back to my house.

I inch home in what seems to be a white tunnel. Now I try to stay in the middle of the road so I don’t end up jumping the curb or getting caught in a drift. At home at 4pm, I turn the heat on under homemade chicken soup and pop two marshmallows in everyone’s hot cocoa.

Snow day. Good thing I stayed home from work. It might be nap time.

Edited to add:

I’m making dinner (pesto tortellini, asparagus, and matzoh ball soup) when a mouse “small, grey, and bright eyed” (with apologies to Bonny Becker and the mouse)  scampered across my stove. Did you hear me? Across my stove! I screamed and scuttled backwards which brought in my son and my dog who, upon hearing “mouse,” was ready to rumble. Through a course of events which included fire and entrapment, the mouse ended up in the jaws of Lucy the valiant (or beast depending who’s telling the story.) I will be getting many mouse traps tomorrow. As soon as I can dig out.

#MadnessPoetry has begun!

In my last post, I promoted the call for poets on the completely redesigned and fabulous Madness Poetry website. Well…I was accepted as an “authlete” and received my first word, “reciprocal,” last night at 8pm with a thirty-six hour deadline. Twenty-four hours later I’ve submitted a poem. Nothing like a deadline to get the creative juices flowing!

Now it’s your turn. Check out the Authlete Brackets to see how the competition is progressing, the Authlete Matchups to see the word assignments, and the Calendar of Events  to see when poems will be posted, then start voting for you favorite poetry. And faithful blog readers, I humbly ask for your votes.

If you are a teacher, there’s a special place for you and your classroom to sign up, vote, and be counted.

Only the best, funniest, most technically sound, fearless poets will survive.

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2017 March Madness Poetry is back!

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For all of you who love reading and writing poetry for kids, it’s time to celebrate. Ed DeCaria is reviving the March Madness Poetry contest. Not only that, but he has also put in  an amazing effort to give Madness Poetry it’s own website with new and improved user experience. He is currently taking 1) Poet Authlete Applications 2) Classroom Teachers who want their students to participate in voting and 3) Fans who want to participate in voting. As we’ve all discovered, if you don’t vote, you suffer the results so go to http://madnesspoetry.com/ today and signup! Thank you, Ed!

Craft Concerns: Sure I’m showing but let me tell you too…

I’m in the final pages of revision note making on my current middle grade novel WIP, and I’m finding all those things that make me roll my eyes when I see them in submissions. Ideally, I’m able to take off my writer hat, put on my self-editing hat, and catch those mistakes before my work goes to any agent or editor.

Many of these craft concerns are just part of drafting and in some cases are a writer’s own shorthand or red flag to rework a section. My personal red flags include the words: then, and then, feel, smile, see, and hear. To me, they signal that I’m about to tell, or lose a chance to be in scene showing emotion or moving the plot forward with action.

This manuscript is particularly difficult because the narrator is rather intrusive and actually has an important part to play in telling the story. What I’m finding is that I tell AND ALSO show. It’s as if I don’t really trust the characters to have their own voices or actions, nor do I trust the reader to get what I’m trying to say. Instead of just showing and letting the scene stand on its own, I write a little telling intro that goes nowhere before their scene. Like this:

My job now is to rework these scenes. Instead of summing up crucial off-stage moments after the fact or before I also show, I want to make sure that the action is happening on stage and in order. Back to the revision cave.

What are your revision red flags?

The End—Almost

Weighing in a just over 35,000 words, the first draft of my newest middle grade novel is now complete.

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Calm down cute, fluffy, puppy. Complete is a misleading word as there are still many miles to go before it is actually finished.

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No, no. Don’t be a sad panda. Now I’ll set the draft aside to marinade, pickle, steep, sleep (Oh, sorry. That’s what I should be doing now since it is past midnight…). Normally, I’d let it rest for two weeks to a month, but I’d love to get it off my desk by the new year (resolutions and all), so I may speed up the process. Next comes a revision, then beta readers, more revisions, and a thorough edit after that.

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I think so too!

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!