The occasional postings of a writer, illustrator, and mom.
Author: Anna E. Jordan
Anna Eleanor Jordan, MFA, MSEd is a children's book writer & illustrator, blogger, educator. Click on Creative Curriculum to learn more about Common Core aligned curriculum for authors, illustrators, and publishers.
Sidewalk sheds that support scaffolding in NYC are ever-present due to a facade inspection and maintenance law. (Law 11) While contractors fix bricks, mortar, frames, and flashing many stories up, the sidewalk sheds below provide temporary shelter from summer thunder storms. For the homeless, they provide more regular protection from the elements.
The other day, as I climbed the subway stairs to Union Square, it struck me that something was very different. I stopped and took in the space, circling in place, before I realized that scaffolding had been removed from the building with a ground-level PetCo. Had that store been there for the past ten months? The Square felt lighter and brighter. I’m sure the PetCo owners are relieved too.
My dear friends, in January I got a job as the Special Events Coordinator at the children’s book store Books of Wonder. I love the work I do, creating book events for authors and illustrators for both our 18th and 84th Street stores. In the first two months I’ve been there, we put on a successful birthday party for Dr. Seuss that celebrated early readers, picture book bonanzas, launches, and middle grade panels. It’s been very satisfying and extremely busy.
I’ve been so immersed in presenting the work of other authors and artists that I’ve completely failed to celebrate my own work. This week, the poetry anthology, The Proper Way to Meet a Hedgehog and Other How-to Poems from Candlewick launched! The beautiful book with illustrations from Richard Jones is now in the world with two of my poems included. I’m grateful to be listed in the table of contents with poets I’ve long admired.
Our editor, Paul B. Janeczko, passed away just before publication and I wasn’t sure what it would look like to celebrate this book in the face of his death. Watching others on social media, I realize that selling the book is a celebration of his life and work. I hope you’ll support your local poet and local independent bookstore with your purchase.
If you are my Mom (hi, Mom!), or my sister, or a past roommate, and you’d like me to personalize your book, order the book from Books of Wonder and write in the comment section of the order form that you’d like Anna Jordan to sign it. I’d be honored.
Until then, perhaps everyone could write a poem or find one you love to keep in your pocket—a few words that you can take out on the subway, or while waiting in line at the grocery store, or before a test at school. A small slip that takes up space to remind you that there are poets and poetry all around us and that you are one too. I think that Paul would like that.
Happy New Year one and all. After the election, during the months of November and December, I started to post from time to time and then was drawn away by other responsibilities.
As December dawned warm and windy in Brooklyn, I was grateful for all the new connections I made. During November, I found the NYPL Business library with career counselors, workshops, database access and much more. I met smart, strong women at the Morgan Stanley Her Way event and saw Times Square from 26 floors up. I shared my goals with an accomplished woman in Bloomberg LP’s C-suite, experienced the high-tech facilities there, and expanded my network. (I’m still giddy about the numbers of salt-water fish tanks and snacks in the Bloomberg LP welcome area.)
In the good news column, after submitting a blind essay I was accepted to the HarperCollins “New to Publishing” event. This January networking event promises to be a wonderful way to meet the leaders at HarperCollins.
I’m thrilled that my newest magazine article published in the online LGBTQ+ magazine INTO from Grindr. I got to work with wonderful editors who pushed me to make the article, The 40-Year-Old (Lesbian) Virgin, the best it could be. (Click for all of my publication and freelance credits.)
I took work substitute teaching at a private school in Brooklyn. I’ve enjoyed being with students again and meeting the librarians who connect kids and books.
I spent the holiday season at a high-end paper store in Rockefeller Center. With lines to the women’s room that stretched on and on, I was grateful for the key to Shangri-La (the secret employee’s bathroom). If you haven’t waited tables or worked in retail you are missing an understanding of how we treat service employees. Reread Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich and if a retail person asks if they can help you, don’t say you’re just browsing. Throw them a bone and ask what’s new in the store, or what’s on sale. They spend every day with the stock. As I leave the store, I’m grateful for the wage I got, for the increase in the minimum wage that workers in NY will get in 2019, and my awesome co-workers.
Still, November and December were filled with economic anxiety. I ended up using some retirement money to pay off credit card debt from my move. After laboring over the decision for weeks, having a clean slate has been tremendously freeing. I’m thankful for my apartment as it has given me a solid foundation to build my new life. I enter 2019 grateful for my health, my children and my family, reconnecting with cousins, and finding new friends.
It’s #GivingTuesday and I don’t have any money to give away. In fact, ironically, (sadly) I’m going to be canceling some of my month-to-month giving. If you follow me, then you might be interested in stepping in to take my place. Many of these organizations have matching donors helping out today. Here’s where I would give if I had a job:
NPR: support your local National Public Radio Station in its efforts to give us independent, fact-based, unbiased news reporting.
PEN America: supports first amendment rights and advocates on behalf of writers, reporters, and other artists at risk and supports awards for writers.
ACLU: this organization has been instrumental in challenging the anti-constitutional policies of the current government. Support them and support LGBT… issues, women’s rights, immigrant rights, voting rights, and the rights of us all.
Maine Women’s Lobby: corporations have their lobbyists at the state capitol and so should you. Donate to fund a voice for all Maine women in Augusta and celebrate the 40th anniversary for this important organization.
Eagle’s Nest Foundation: your donation helps provide scholarships for students and campers who would not otherwise be able to attend this loving, outdoor-based, experiential-education community in the beautiful mountains of North Carolina.
NAACP: works to ensure a society in which all individuals have equal rights without discrimination based on race.
ADL: The anti-defamation league fights anti-Semitism and all forms of hate.
WNDB: We Need Diverse Books is a grassroots organization of children’s book lovers that advocates essential changes in the publishing industry. Their aim is to help produce and promote literature that reflects and honors the lives of all young people.
First Book: provides new books, learning materials, and other essentials to children in need. They have donated 175 million books and resources in 30 countries. They currently reach an average of 5 million children every year and serve one out of every three classrooms and programs in need.
Some writing groups I love:
VCFA: Vermont College of Fine Arts is my alma mater and an amazing low-residency MFA program with a focus for Writing for Children and Young Adults. Check out any end-of-year “best-books” lists and you’ll find a significant number of graduates there. Donate or if you’re interested in visiting the January residency as a prospective student call 1-866-934-VCFA or 802-828-8600 or contact the Admissions office via email.
Highlights Foundation: Classes for writers and illustrators, newbies and veterans alike; the instructors are out-of-this-world (many I’m lucky to call friends), the food and lodging are out-of-this-world too.
Hedgebrook: provides residencies and classes for women writers of all backgrounds and various writing genres including poetry, songwriting, playwriting, fiction, and nonfiction in the cutest cottages you’ve ever seen.
Your synagogue, university, hunger prevention, housing assistance program, environmental organization? Where will you be donating today and throughout the year?
Along with the rest of the country, I have been mourning the loss of life in Pittsburgh. If you haven’t seen it already, I recommend this video by Mayim Bialik the actress from Big Bang Theory. Her raw emotion captures how many of us are dealing with the fear of anti-semitism and the frustration of being Jewish in this time in history—a time filled with hate (racial, gender, sexual, religious) we and our parents had been working so long to overcome. I also want to amplify Stacy Mozer’s “My Thoughts on Pittsburgh” from her children’s writing blog It’s All About the Journey.
I’ve been “shopping” synagogues the whole time I’ve been here, so I did #showupforshabbat last Friday night and a lovely new group of people welcomed me. We wrote letters of condolence to the Tree of Life and other congregants. During the amazing service, with my back to the door, my spine tingled with the fear of violence. Later in the weekend, I found out that the synagogue where I attended Yom Kippur services saw anti-semitic vandalism.
One of the songs we sang on Friday night was Heneni or Here I am with a melody by Julie Lipson. The chanted call and response was powerful and sad in the well-attended service. You can hear it here. The experience inspired this poem.
Heneni—Here I am
Here I am
Here I am
all I know
all I have to offer
all I have to learn
Here I am
walking in peace
finding the light
leaving things better
Of course, when one is on edge emotionally anything can topple you. The enormity of my transition, past pain, current family illness, and the fact that two months ago I kissed my kiddos good-bye. The excitement of NY had allowed me to push aside my empty-nest feelings but that sadness rushed in with the grief of the shooting.
In other news (or the same news really)…tomorrow is Election Day. I spent some time phone banking yesterday and have been posting regularly to remind people to vote. I think hope lines will be long. Stay with it folks. Dress appropriately, bring a plus one, and find a way to have fun. Don’t even watch or listen to the polling numbers. Every race is a tight race and your vote matters!
As my savings decrease, I’ve been working on a freelance article and pursuing some retail and some teaching opportunities. I’ve been accepted to VIPKid, a company that provides an online platform and lessons to teach English to Chinese children. There’s a lot of hustle required, but at this point, I need something. I also had a phone interview for a substitute teaching position at a local independent school.
My end game is still a job in children’s publishing. I’ve been looking into industry organizations and following up on leads that come from friends and family. Thanks to everyone who has been emailing and calling.
Thanksgiving is coming. Take time to hug your loved ones. Try to find common ground. If you can’t…just hold each other in silence. See you in a few weeks.
Over the past two weeks, I’ve been nesting a lot more. I finished emptying the last few boxes and bought a kitchen table, bookcase, and bed/futon bunk for my boys from Craigslist. A tickle in my throat turned into a full-on nose drippy mess and I spent a few days in bed. I started having in-depth conversations with Phyllis, Spike, Ginger, and Lucky (l-to-r below) and knew that as much as I loved these new members of my family, I needed other people in my life.
When my sons were small, I met other grown-ups at story times. I waited on playgrounds with other parents as our kids donned backpacks and zipped zippers at the end of the day. We discussed our joys, our pains, our lack of sleep. Some of these relationships took root, and I still have them today. Moving to New York has meant finding ways to meet friends without children in tow.
In Maine, my longest relationships are with the women in my book club. Luckily, the book club meeting for the nearby, feminist bookstore Cafe con Libros was quickly approaching and they were reading Americanah, a book that has been on my TBR list for far too long. The day of the book club, with only a quarter of the book read, I wiggled into the small space, bought tea and a scone, and started to introduce myself. I met a few other people new to the area who also had been drawn by the promise of intelligent conversation and diverse thinkers. It is true that independent bookstores build community! Thanks to my subway rides I’m almost done with Americanah and ready to pick up our next book, All You Can Ever Knowby Nicole Chung. And…my old book club approves of my polyamorous book clubbing.
While I was very involved in the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) from 2001-2011, my participation dropped off after my VCFA graduation. Over the last two weeks, I attended a few events including a first-pages critique where I volunteered and a write/sketch night. Both events helped me make new connections that I hope will grow.
As the camp song goes, “make new friends but keep the old…” I was so pleased when my camp friend, Adam, called with an extra ticket to the play Usual Girls. This amazing drama, that follows the life of a Korean-American girl from third grade to young adulthood, is a raw portrayal of the all-too-familiar microaggressions faced by women of color and girls/women in general. On the heels of the Kavanaugh hearing, the play was especially powerful. I’ll be watching this playwright, Ming Peiffer, and the wonderful young actors for whatever they do next.
I also found my way to Anastasia this week. The Disney musical includes digital technology to make the staging almost cinematic but the new songs and villain they added for the musical are less engaging. People I love would be upset if I didn’t mention that Christy Altomare’s kindness shines through in her portrayal of Anya/Anastasia. And, ooo-wee that girl can sing!
Most of my time has been filled with researching open job positions, networking, and applying for work. A massive headache, throat pain, and runny nose didn’t help my spirits so I’ve definitely felt defeated. My spreadsheet shows that I’ve applied to 35 positions since June. Recently, some of those are retail and restaurant jobs. Cross your fingers for me!
Finally, I turned in my absentee ballot last week. If you haven’t already, please make your voting plan for Tuesday, November 6. Make an appointment for you voting time on your calendar. Or if Tuesday, November 6 doesn’t work for you, request an absentee ballot or vote early. Not sure where, when, or how to vote? Here’s a link to the US Vote Foundation that will answer your questions about registration, absentee ballots, and more. VOTE!
I’ll be back to remind you in a couple of weeks! (Did I mention… VOTE!)
It’s been a busy week, so please excuse my late posting.
This week I’ve been venturing forth in search of fun and friends–from Broadway to the Bowery. Some of you may know that one reason I felt comfortable coming to NYC is that I have friends from various parts of my life who live here. My childhood-summer-camp friend Adam is a Broadway connoisseur who knows the ins and outs of ticketing. He turned me on to a resident discount program. I used it the first time to see an off-off Broadway show called “Stop Kiss” which was up a steep and very narrow stairway to a tiny black-box theater or the Upper West Side.
The play, about an attack on a lesbian couple was very moving and the structure was intriguing. The play moves from the beginning to the climactic scene and then works its way forward and backwards at the same time. So in one scene the two women are meeting and developing their relationship and the next they are in the hospital after the attack. This goes on back and forth which must have been emotionally dizzying for the actresses but they pulled it off very well.
My long-time Maine Bookclub friend, Kim boarded a train and came for a visit. We found two-for-one tickets to “Waitress” (which I’ve been dying to see.) We started the evening at a little bar nearby with the best Cosmopolitan I’ve ever had. Not cheap but very fun.
The next day I used my new Brooklyn geographic knowledge to navigate from my apartment through the Prospect Park trails all the way to the central Brooklyn Library branch. They have a culture pass that offers limited numbers of free museum tickets to card holders. Unfortunately, they are often snagged at the beginning of the month. I’ll have to figure this out.
In the evening, we went to the book launch for Rebecca Traister’s Good and Mad about women’s anger and political change. VOTE!
Yes that is Samantha Bee interviewing Traister! VOTE!
All of these evening events have been changing my biorhythms. In Maine, I woke regularly at 6 a.m., got up to care for children and Lucy dog, and got my day started. Bedtime was rarely later than 10 p.m.
NYC is just timed differently. Events don’t start until 8, 9, or 10. Now, I can easily stay up till one in the morning which means waking between 8-8:30. That throws off eating times (which leads to eating out, $$$) and messes up my productivity. I’m trying to figure it out and find my calm away from the noise and stimuli with walks in the park.
Luckily, book launches tend to be free because I have a lot of author friends. I was so happy to go to the launch of The Splintered Light by New Hampshire author and fellow VCFA alumnus Ginger Johnson! Parents and librarians take notice, this beautifully written book has the tone of DiCamillo and the adventure of Lowry. I’m lugging my hard cover copy with me on the subway all over NY.
Also from VCFA my dear friend Kathy who also came out to support Ginger.
Another Saturday night and I ain’t got nobody…so I took to Twitter where one can search for free events. There I found pop up comedy at a bar in the Bowery. The set list was short which left me wandering. I got seduced by a discount ticket to the New York Comedy club and then blindsided by a two drink minimum. Yikes. I took the non-alcoholic package but still ended up paying handily. The belly-laughs were just what the doctor ordered.
This week I’m trying to establish a budget for time and money, and, you know, still get a job. Cross your fingers for me.
This week I left the lovely pup I was dog-sitting. I spent two full days on hands and knees with a sponge, cleanser, and a razor scraper removing filth and paint spatter from the bathroom and kitchen—tile, cabinets, floors, you name it—in my new apartment. I rented a car and drove to Princeton to help the movers retrieve my things and then I moved in!
Having a place to live has made a world of difference. I’ve been able to explore Brooklyn and enjoy New York City. I saw the play The Nap which was both hilarious and unpredictable. (NYT review here.)
I watched the spectacle in the Senate live with my new internet connection and then—sad, angry, and frustrated—went to The Brooklyn Museum to refill my spirit with activist art of the Black Power movement.
I took refuge in the room specially built for Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party and the 1,038 women honored there. Even though I’ve owned and read the catalog for this exhibit since college, I was still unprepared for the glow of the gold—the writing on the floor, the thread in the runners, the glaze on the plates—which was magical and calming.
This morning I pumped my bike tires and explored the 3.2-mile Prospect Park loop road which is closed to traffic on the weekends. I ended up at the Grand Army Plaza farmer’s market! It felt so much like the Brunswick Mall in Maine that I almost expected I might see my old friends. Instead, I found new kindnesses…a vendor who spotted me 50¢ until I could purchase my wooden tokens (good for all farmers markets in NY and worth $5 each!) and a man who paid $1 of my egg purchase because the vendor didn’t have the right change for my tokens.
That’s a lot of beets!!!
Here’s my little haul (cooking for one)…
and my kitchen. Window cleaning is on my list of things to do. They are replacing the stove today because the gas company deemed it hazardous. Luckily I brought my electric griddle for just such a situation.
I’ll admit that with the cleaning, moving, and exploring my stats are down, but I have a whole slew of job apps that are going out this weekend. Also, I’m happy to report that I’m back to writing my morning pages and opening my fiction works in progress.
Miles Walked: 14.5
Miles Biked: 5
Jobs applied to: 1
Networking meetings: 2
Overheard: Two men running shirtless talking about their midlife back-hair growth…”Just put me in the zoo and call me a bear!”
A man cutting fingernails on subway train and letting them fall to the ground. Ick.
A woman in a drugged stupor who everyone ignored even when she almost fell off her seat. I shook her to find out if she needed medical attention and then told the train driver. I realize there are too many of those situations to help all the time, but it didn’t hurt me to help her in that moment.
Are your high school students talking about the #KavanaughConfirmation hearings? They should be. The issues of body autonomy, toxic male culture, drinking (and marijuana use) and how it affects sexual consent are critical to their lives and their futures. If you were to assemble a stack of Young Adult contemporary literature and pulled one out of the stack Jenga-style, you’d be almost guaranteed to find a red Solo cup mentioned. Why? Because alcohol-fueled parties are the reality in the lives of many high school students. That’s not to say that everyone drinks but everyone is affected by the drinking.
Therefore, when your students ask you about the hearings, don’t shy away from the news. Use this critical national current event as a teachable moment and reach for literature. Literature is a discussion starting point that takes the events of the day away from the partisanship and allows students to see a moment in time from various points of view as in the beautifully crafted book Wrecked, by Maria Padian (Algonquin Young Readers).
Told not by the victim and accused in a college sexual assault allegation, but by their friends Haley and Richard, the reader is both caught in the swirling tempest of heightened emotions and also able to pick apart the threads of each argument that makes the storm. We see the parents, the fictional MacCallum college administration, the campus organizations and each response to the allegations and investigation of the night in question. In her 2016 interview with Book Riot Padian says:
“I want readers to experience Wrecked the way we experience all reports of sexual assault: from the other side of a closed door. I want them to experience the discomfort of thinking they know what happened, then seeing from another point of view and having their assumptions challenged. Repeatedly.”
While Wrecked is set on a college campus it is a crucial read for teens. Says Padian:
“Young people are sexually active long before they reach college. Exposure to issues surrounding consent needs to happen long before they are set loose on a campus! Wrecked dramatizes the transition, from high school to college, when young people are sorting out who they are now that they have left the confines of their childhood homes. It’s a crucial period, and would interest teens on the cusp of that change, as well as those who have recently entered that new world and are currently navigating it.”
Make Wrecked and these other fine books available to your high school students and children. And for the love of all that is holy…these books should be read by girls AND boys.
Gypsy Housing NYC is a closed group on Facebook. Great for people in their 20s and 30s. Geared towards artists and theater folks. Especially good if you need a room on an existing lease. Facebook’s “Marketplace” is also helpful.
The Roomi app pairs you up with people according to the filtering parameters you set up. You can’t speak directly to that person unless they respond to your initial outreach.
Street Easy is the standard and is a great place to start to figure out prices and geography. The map click feature allows you to say where you want to be when you are learning neighborhood names. (Walk a block over and you are in a new real estate neighborhood—very confusing.) Also, scroll all the way down on a listing to see public transportation near by and past rental fees for the space if you’d like to negotiate.