Call for PAL published, mid-list, #kidlit authors

#Kidlit writer/illustrator friends! I took the summer off from blogging for my own WIP and the many transitions happening in my personal world, but great books came out all summer long.

Come September, I’ll be Back-to-School Blogging and would love to focus on your mid-list PB, MG, or YA read that didn’t get enough attention because it was a late spring/summer release. I’d like to post interviews, anatomy-of-an-illustration posts with process drawings, what’s-the-seed-of-your-story posts, and more. Ideally, I’d have enough to post M, W, F throughout September starting 9/5/18. I’ll be prepping these in the next two weeks.

If you are interested in taking part, pitch me your book/post idea with a Facebook message or email. annaeleanorjordan at gmail dot com

VCFA alumni get first dibs so mention that in your note.
If I have space for fall releases I’ll add those in.
SCBWI PAL published books only.

Melanie Crowder’s online class @The Writing Barn: Novel Foundations: The Young Adult Novel

In July of 2011 I graduated with my M.F.A. in Writing with a concentration in writing for children and young adults. I was sure that I was on my way. Publication would be right around the corner. When I received the 2013 PEN New England Children’s Book Discovery award and got an agent shortly after—I was sure that I was on my way. Publication would be right around the corner. A revise and resubmit within the year convinced me that I was on my way. Publication would be right…well you get it.

Persistence is the golden ticket in this business but isn’t easy. I’ve found that a supportive community of other writers and regular professional development keeps me going (along with my “morning pages,” thank you Julia Cameron.)

That’s why I’ve signed up for Melanie Crowder’s upcoming online class, Novel Foundations: The Young Adult Novel, through the Austin-based The Writing Barn.

bw-300x260If you haven’t picked up an award-winning volume by Melanie Crowder where have you been you have a lot to choose from. Young adult historical novels such as the beautiful novel in verse about Clara Lemlich’s campaign for worker’s rights, Audacity, or the heart-breaking An Uninterrupted View of the Sky about Bolivian prisons and the children and families who live there. Middle grade novels that range from the fantastic, A Nearer Moon, to the ecological near future, Parched, to the contemporary, Three Pennies. All of them are lyrical and tightly written stories about characters with realistic, emotional journeys.

Melanie has been kind enough to drop by Creative Chaos.

Welcome, Melanie! This is not the first class you’ve taught online, but this is the first class I’ll be taking online. As a seasoned face-to-face educator, how do you use technology to affect successful learning?

Well, if we could beam every single attendee to the beautiful Writing Barn and back again each night to resume our busy, busy lives I would love to teach this course face-to-face!

But since we haven’t we caught up to Star Trek tech yet, the online platform the Writing Barn uses is pretty seamless. Attendees can all see and hear one another, we can screen-share documents, and have a real-time conversation. I taught a course on Emotion in Fiction using this system and it went very well—we had a great group that generated some really fascinating conversations.

It seems that work-shopping one’s work with other students is an important part of the class. Are comments delivered in print or is there an actual discussion via video?

Yes! We learn so much by putting on different hats—writer, teacher, editor, student. Many times we can see elements that aren’t working in others’ work that we are blind to in our own—it can be so illuminating—especially when the topic we are covering in class becomes clear on the pages we’re discussing.

Your curriculum is chock full of basics including plot, structure, character, conflict and more advanced topics such as voice, dialogue and theme. Are there auxiliary readings or is all the content delivered during the Wednesday night lessons? How will we fit it all in?

Like most of my classes, this one will have a combo of lecture (including excerpts from mentor texts), discussion, and writing exercises. My teaching style is fluid—responsive to the needs of the individuals present—so the ratio of those different elements may shift on any given day. I will also often point attendees to additional resources that I find helpful beyond the scope of what we can cover in class.

No doubt, there will be writers with a wide range of experience. How do you tailor a class to meet everyone’s needs?

I think of learning the craft of writing as a spiral. Sometimes when we circle back to something at a more basic level of understanding, it unlocks deeper connections or reminds us of simple truths we’ve forgotten. And that applies to all of us, at every stage of our writing journey. The minute we close ourselves off to new learning is the moment when our writing begins to stagnate.

My hope is that this class will speak to writers at various stages: writers who are working on a first draft for the very first time, writers who have mastered picture books or middle grade, but are wanting to translate their skills to writing for the teen audience, as well as those who have a few YA manuscripts under their belt, but who are wanting to take their work to the next level.

What are you most looking forward to in teaching this class?

I love connecting with other writers, and the synergy that comes from our collective focus. I love seeing that light go on when new possibilities open up in a writer’s mind. Honestly—it’s thrilling!

Thank you, Melanie! I too am looking forward to meeting a new cohort of lovely writers, spiraling back to forgotten truths, and keeping my current “work in progress”—progressing. Join me!

#TBT Anna’s Art

As you might have guessed from my Twitter handle (@annawritedraw) and license plate, writing and drawing have always been a large part of my life. Recently, portfolios full of my old artwork came home to me. Here are a few for #TBT. These are from the early 2000s:

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“Bakery Babies:” I ended up transferring this pencil sketch to a board and painting it with gouache but the children got stiff and the palette didn’t work.
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“Sun Salutation:” This was a trial for an illustration job. I still like this piece.
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“Kitty Transformation:” This was one of four images that showed an orange cat and ball of yarn transforming into a pumpkin. The four were scanned, colored in photoshop, and became my fall illustration promo piece.
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Concept illustration for a short story about a boy and his mother who get on a bus that is packed with human-like animals. Mom never notices because the news is way more interesting.
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“The Phoenix Towers:” After 9/11, I sketched this concept for my idea of a replacement for the twin towers. These wing-like buildings curved around a marble pool with an eternal flame. I still like the idea of the glass elevator shaft on the outside edge of the building (but I’d be too scared to ride in it.)

Since February, I’ve been working as the managing editor at American Journal and Lakes Region Weekly papers and editor at Maine Women Magazine and My Generation. These newspapers and magazines take a local approach to news and features. I’ve been grateful to work with a group of dedicated and kind journalists and editors.

Since the shootings at Parkland, the reporters have been researching and writing for student mental health series that I proposed. My hope in instigating the series was that readers would be able to use the information from the reporting to advocate for their needs and beliefs at their local school boards and in our state capitol. When we have good and balanced reporting, communities are informed to speak up for their priorities. Isn’t that really what all news is about?

That three-part series, “Under Pressure,” started publishing last week and I’m eager for people to read the amazing reporting. Please follow the links.  I’ll edit this to add Part 3 next week.

Part 1:

Under pressure: Mental health needs challenge southern Maine schools

Part 2:

North

Under pressure: Topsham school counselor has seen the profession evolve

Midcoast

Under pressure: Yarmouth team responds to variety of student needs

South

Under pressure: As South Portland schools become more diverse, so do needs

Portland

Under pressure: Mental, emotional support for Portland students largely ‘crisis driven’

American Journal/Lakes Region Weekly

Gorham High takes team approach to mental health

 

 

Madness Poetry Returns: 2018

Madness Poetry competition is back, and I’ll try once again to best the best. I’ve had a series of one-off experiences as an “authlete.” (One against Jane Yolen!) My first poem has been submitted and will be published tomorrow for voting. One big change this year is that both my opponent, Gabi Snyder, and I have to use the same word — overkill — in our poems. I love this because the students, other authletes, and the general public will get more of an apples to apples judging experience.

Please follow along and vote, vote, vote!

Edited to add: Here’s the permalink to my match up with Gabi.

Bartending: The hippy, hippy shake

This weekend, I took a bartending class. Have you seen the bartenders in “Coyote Ugly?” Do you remember the flair of Tom Cruise slinging drinks in “Cocktail?”

That’s not me. Not yet.

However, this weekend I learned from the best. Troy from The Dogfish Company has over fifteen years of experience behind the bar and in management. He led us through the basics of bar set-up and break down procedures, recipes, safety, and portion control. Added to my customer service experience and artistic bent, this may be the thing that allows me to focus more on my writing and art.

My recent efforts to make a living have depended on my writing, and editing skills which often leave me unwilling and uninterested to face the computer after hours. A deep dive into words has seemed totally unappealing after a long day of editing other people’s writing. My creative work has been languishing. I hear it moan from the pages of my notebooks when I’m zonked on the couch at the end of the day. Perhaps I need to make my money doing something totally different.

I’m eager to build speed and flair and maybe someday soon I’ll look like this.

Poetry Friday: “One Today”

For many bloggers, Friday is for poetry. I was so pleased this week to attend a reading by poet Richard Blanco. In his presentation, the poet, civil engineer, and city planner spoke about the importance of place addressing the questions:  Where am I from? Where do I belong? Who am I in this world? Not only were the well-crafted essays and poems  a joy to experience, but I was also able to meet the lovely Mr. Blanco. Even though I was at the very end of a very long signing line, he still took the time to address each of us personally and with intention.

I first heard Mr. Blanco read in Portland’s Merrill Auditorium soon after President Obama’s inauguration in January of 2013. I couldn’t believe an auditorium that seats 1900 was filled—for poetry! When he read “One Today” for us, I had an overwhelming feeling of joy that real change was on the horizon—that we were moving forward.

In Falmouth this week, I had a decidedly different feeling. How was it that in five short years we’d gone from a nation celebrating “all of us” to…this?

There is no poetry in the presidency now. There are no books, no decorum, no diplomacy. There are only bits and pieces of anger and outrage, racism and division. There are short memories and shorter-term fixes.

Every day brings a new scandal that causes us to forget and diminish the scandal that came moments before. And all of these scandals are screens to the real changes in our country and government: lifetime appointments of ultra-conservative judges, a new “Conscious and Religious Freedom” division in the U.S. Department Health and Human Services whose purpose is to deny abortions and transition surgeries to transgendered individuals if a health provider has a religious issue with the medical procedure, free speech and freedom of the press is constantly under attack, and Dreamers and children without healthcare are used as pawns in a political game of will-we-or-won’t-we-shut-down-the-government.

Tomorrow, I will be out in the January cold to march for the home about which Mr. Blanco writes in the final stanza of his poem. Join me and vote in 2018 for the home you imagine.

We head home: through the gloss of rain or weight
of snow, or the plum blush of dusk, but always—home,
always under one sky, our sky. And always one moon
like a silent drum tapping on every rooftop
and every window, of one country—all of us—
facing the stars
hope—a new constellation
waiting for us to map it,
waiting for us to name it—together.

-Richard Blanco

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You can check-out the picture book One Today at your local library or purchase/order it at your local independent bookstore.

 

 

2017 Wrap-up

I know I’m not the only one who felt as if each day seemed like a year in 2017. This year was the first time I thought a 24 news cycle might be necessary. It isn’t. Constant pinging from my phone made me crazy more than once a million times this year. (Cue notification settings.) I attended the Women’s March in January and wrote constantly to my elected officials thanks to ResistBot. I had many driveway moments after NPR stories where I’d whip out my phone and text a fax to Senators King and Collins.

The political was personal this year, and I had to remind myself more than once that creating art and writing is a form of resistance. When I couldn’t write, I turned to TV.

My ability to binge on story through streaming was both a help and hindrance. I started the year with the newest season of Orange is the New Black; I enjoyed the ongoing telenovela Jane the Virgin; I was rooting for Ayana Ife in the most recent season of Project Runway; I loved  Younger, a show about a 40-year old who gets an assistant’s position in publishing by lying about her age (ahem, is that how I do it?); and I got freaked out by one of my favorite books turned television show, The Handmaid’s Tale. I learn a lot about storytelling and what keeps people watching from episode to episode. Binging multiple seasons allows me to see how the arcs are similar from one season to the next. Okay, maybe that’s all justification but it’s also fun.

I set up my 2017 Goodreads Challenge to read 52 books this year and ended up with 36. I’m not too upset by that. I read more books for adults this year and more with heavy subjects and hefty word counts ie: Outlander, Swing Time, Underground Railroad, and The Librarian of Auschwitz.  I also didn’t use Goodreads to list the books that I read to research my current WIP.

My favorite YA books of the year featured strong girls who didn’t start off knowing they were so kick ass: Gillian French’s, The Door to January (Yes, this is from the publisher I work for, and I really loved it); and Jennifer Mathieu’s, Moxie.

I upped my freelance magazine writing this year. You can read my work in Maine Women Magazine and Art New England.

I signed with a new agent early in the year and delivered a new middle grade manuscript to her. While I wait to hear from editors on that submission, I’m busy writing a YA historical time travel that I started during NaNoWriMo. I got the first 13,500 words done in November and I’m at 18,910 today.

Personally, I sent one son off to his first-choice college this fall and helped the other through his college apps. We found out in mid-December that he got into his first choice early action. It is beyond beautiful that my boys are turning into such amazing young men. It is the one thing that fills me with hope. As part of the sandwich generation, I’ve also traveled to be with my parents. Aging sucks (in case you didn’t know) and can be filled with infirmity that begets pain and depression—but that’s another post.

Well! After looking back at my year I feel like the protagonists in my favorite YAs—a strong girl who didn’t start off knowing she was so kick ass. Bring it on 2018.

 

 

Time Travel Thoughts

I’m currently in the Research & Development phase of my Work In Progress which reminds me of the character Conrad (Jason Bateman) in the movie The Longest Week:

Narrator: …At present, he was working on his magnum opus – a great New York novel in the tradition of Fitzgerald and Edith Wharton. It was widely speculated as to where he was in the process of writing it. When asked, he would simply reply…

Conrad Valmont: I’m in the gathering stages.

Narrator: Conrad had been in the “gathering stages”for several years now.

This seed has been around for several years as well, but for various reasons the time has come to push it to the front of the idea list. The idea includes a time travel/historical element and since that has been done before it is hard to make it not derivative. These concerns keep putting me off, and yet, I keep coming back to the drawing board.

The actual act of time travel requires many world building solutions to everyday questions: what’s so special about this character that s/t/he/y gets to travel through time, what is the time travelers purpose when s/t/he/y is in another time, why time travel and not just historical fiction, how does the time travel work, does it work only to a single specific time/multiple times/past & future, can the traveler go back & forth or forward & back at will, can the traveler determine the time before s/t/he/y go, how does the main character return? (I’ve been reading and watching a lot of time travel movies/shows.)

Here’s a quick list (to organize my thoughts) of how time travel tends to work in fiction.

Mathematical/Scientific:

  • Time Machine or device (Back to the Future, Bill & Ted, Annum Guard Series (YA), Into the Dim (YA series). This allows the character to go to different pre-set times/worlds unless something happens to the device. TARDIS.)
  • Geometric (tesseract ala A Wrinkle in Time)
  • Wormhole
  • Tachyon
  • Rip in universe
  • Hypnosis
  • Time ray (comics often villain has this)
  • Remote Control
  • Radiation
  • Alien assistance
  • Cryogenics
  • Gaseous fog
  • Weather or Earth event
  • Interaction with Future Traveler who has superior technology

Endowed Magical Object/Person:

  • Book (Magic Tree House series: Morgan Le Fay is “Time Librarian.” Inkheart series. Really world traveling but still.)
  • Fairies, Witches, Ghosts (Christmas Carol)
  • Guardian Angel (It’s a Wonderful Life)
  • Artifact in pieces (The Story of the Amulet)
  • Artifact (Time-Turner in Prisoner of Azkaban)
  • Artifact + magical words
  • TARDIS (Fits here as well because it looks like a regular police box. Note: I’m not a Dr. Who super-fan so don’t skewer me.)

Magical Portal:

  • Fog (The Fog of Forgetting)
  • Wardrobe (Narnia series)
  • Door (The Devil’s Arithmetic)
  • Gate
  • Large historical structure ie: Standing Stones (Outlander)

Illness:

  • Genetic issue (Time Traveler’s Wife)
  • Heart attack
  • Blow to the head (A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court)

Passive:

  • Sleep (Rip Van Winkle)
  • Fainting (Peggy Sue Got Married)
  • Random flash of light, etc.

This list is not at all exhaustive and I’d love for others to chime in (in the comments) with their own thoughts and examples.