Weeks 6 and 7: Finding my people

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 Americanaha 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 Know by 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 and all-too-familiar portrayal of the 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!

VoteOrTheyWin_Kath_480

I’ll be back to remind you in a couple of weeks! (Did I mention… VOTE!)

Week Five: bio-rhythms and budgets.

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.

Week Four: a home and a new city

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 ate delicious pizza on 5th Ave in Brooklyn, walked Park Slope, and popped into the children’s bookstore Bookshop + Storytelling Lab.

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.

2012-80-18_ps9
Wadsworth A. Jarrell (American, born 1929). Revolutionary (Angela Davis), 1971. Acrylic and mixed media on canvas, 64 x 51 in. (162.6 x 129.5 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of R.M. Atwater, Anna Wolfrom Dove, Alice Fiebiger, Joseph Fiebiger, Belle Campbell Harriss, and Emma L. Hyde, by exchange, Designated Purchase Fund, Mary Smith Dorward Fund, Dick S. Ramsay Fund, and Carll H. de Silver Fund, 2012.80.18. © artist or artist’s estate (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 2012.80.18_PS9.jpg)

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.

img_6204
Judy Chicago (American, born 1939). The Dinner Party, 1974–79. Ceramic, porcelain, textile, 576 × 576 in. (1463 × 1463 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Foundation

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.

img_6207.jpg

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!”

Subway moments:

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.

 

#Kavanaugh and YA Lit: Reach for “Wrecked”

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).

9781616207458_3d

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.

Two of my other favorite YAs on this topic:

Speak, Laurie Halse Anderson

Moxie, Jennifer Mathieau

And eleven others in this Bustle list of YA Books that tackle Sexual Assault and Rape Culture.

And these nonfiction titles:

Good and Mad, Rebecca Traister

Girls and Sex, Peggy Orenstein

Our children are watching and reading. Tell me in the comments what books on this subject made a difference to you.

 

 

Week three: Just keep swimming.

A huge thank you to the outpouring of love and support I got after last week’s post. Especially to everyone who reminded me of my strength and tenacity.

I now own this:

And this:

Which can only mean one thing…

I have leased an apartment!Pictures to come, hopefully. If you need a change of address for me, please email and I’ll send it along!

Now I’ll be focusing on my freelance work and finding a full time job. I’m applying to restaurants as well. Know someone who should know me? Tell me in the comments.

If you are looking for a NY apartment, here are some lesser-known links I’m paying forward that might be helpful:

  • Leasebreak.com for short-term rentals.
  • TheListingsProject for sublets, rooms, and studio spaces. Geared towards artists.
  • 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.

Edited to add:

Miles walked: 22.5

Jobs applied to: 6

Week two: the big apple bites back

I’m not going to sugar coat it. This week was tough. My pet sitting gig was on pause while the family regrouped between trips which meant I slept in four different beds this week—an Airbnb, a cousin’s home, a friend’s home, and then back to the pet sitting gig. Along the way, I lugged my ancient laptop (read: heavy) from Manhattan to Long Island to Roosevelt Island to Brooklyn and ended up bruising or pulling the muscle in my shoulder and neck area. It started as just a pain in the neck but on Thursday morning the pain was debilitating. There’s nothing like pain and a trip to urgent care to pull the plug on the tears one’s been trying to hold in.

Thank you, Dr. Cassie, for being so kind to the sobbing mess on your exam table.

I found out that none of the three apartments I’d been hoping for came through from last week. I don’t meet the 40x-the-rent income requirement. I’ve applied to another apartment on my own this week and if this application doesn’t work, I either have to 1) accept my parent’s offer to co-sign or 2) find a room with others.

The former I’d hoped to avoid because, well, I’m a grown up and it would be nice to do this by myself. However, I had a lovely dinner with a VCFA friend this week and she let me know that rarely can anyone meet the requirement even when they have a job. The later I’d hoped to avoid because I’m a mom of college-aged children, and I’d like them to have a place to come home to where they feel welcome. I can’t imagine a bunch of roommates welcoming two men-children into their space.

I’ve applied for three more jobs this week, and I continue to network in the children’s book community here. I attended Children’s Day at the Brooklyn Book Festival and ran into book authors and agents that I know and met new folks too. I’m thankful to the kindness of the folks at MetroNY SCBWI,  Chronicle and Enchanted Lion Books. The highlight of the picture book tent was witnessing Ame Dyckman’s incredible energy and Jessica Love’s aura of gentleness and love.

Next steps: In the upcoming week, I’m excited to work on a curriculum guide for Lee and Low. If the apartment doesn’t come through, I’ll start interviewing with roommates. Cross your fingers for me.

Here’s my second week by the numbers:

Miles walked: 14

Subway extremes:

  • Long Island Railroad: Syosset
  • F train: Jamaica

Cabs/Ubers/Lyfts: 1

Apartments viewed: 3

Apartment applications: 1

Apartment declines: 3

Job applications: 3

Job declines: 1

Networking phone calls: 1

Creative writing on any of my works in progress: 0

Dog walks: 7

#MarketingMonday: Ginger Johnson, “The Splintered Light”

Welcome to a new occasional feature I’m calling #MarketingMonday. This is a place for authors to learn about book marketing from each other and those in the industry. The feature will include helpful website links, interviews, and brainstorms.

Ginger Johnson

Today, an interview with debut middle-grade author Ginger Johnson whose book The Splintered Light (Bloomsbury) just launched last week! If you missed the summary, check my last post here!

Ginger, welcome and thank you for visiting Creative Chaos! What surprised you about the publishing and book launch process?

I suppose what surprised me most (even though EVERYONE told me this) is how much time I spent on things other than writing. I learned so many new technologies and applications to support my marketing efforts. At times, I felt very much like an old dog trying to learn new tricks, but I have a slew of new skills that I hadn’t anticipated.

9781681196244You’ve been Instagram-ing like crazy! Have your engagement and follow numbers changed?

I haven’t kept track of specific numbers, although I do know I’ve gained probably 100-150 new followers. I used to follow more than be followed, and that has reversed now.

That’s exciting! What was the best marketing advice you got from a fellow author?

One of my fellow 2018 debuts (I can’t remember who or I’d attribute) shared a spreadsheet she had made to keep track of what marketing she was doing and when she needed to do it. I made a similar spreadsheet about six months out to form a concrete plan and to keep track of what I needed to do. If I hadn’t done that, I probably wouldn’t have done much marketing at all, or else I would have turned into the Stress Queen while trying to do everything.  

Another good piece of advice came from Julie Berry who told me that I only have one debut and that I should do as many events as possible.

I love the advice to keep track of all your marketing activities. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and duplicate efforts or drop something—especially with a debut. What was the best advice or help you got from the marketing team at Bloomsbury?

My publicist at Bloomsbury (Lizzy Mason) is incredibly wonderful. She’s always been a source of cheer and encouragement, and she’s arranged some great opportunities for me to meet with booksellers and schools across the country.

Did you give yourself a budget and if so, what did you spend it on? 

I did all of my design work myself (website, book trailer, bookmarks, banner, etc) saving my budget for printing some high-quality swag—really nice bookmarks and large round stickers. I also had a banner printed for bookstore events.

The majority of my budget is being spent on travel. Even though Bloomsbury is generously sending me on a book tour and to NCTE this year, I booked some additional trips to reach audiences in other parts of the country.

I saw that you have a LONG list of venues you’ll visit on your tour. That banner will make it easier for book buyers to identify you as the author and not a store employee. (“Where’s the…adult nonfiction, bathroom. etc…”) How exciting for your new readers.

The Splintered Light Events (1)

What aspect of your marketing plan are you most excited about?

I’m excited about my school visits planned during my book tour. I don’t think there’s anything quite like seeing your book in the hands of your intended audience.

Absolutely! Is there anything else you learned or that you discovered that I didn’t ask about?

Marketing is a beast that can consume all your creative energy. It’s ok to not do everything. Some people blog, some people have newsletters, some people tweet incessantly. Once I stopped looking at the marketing everyone else was doing and gave myself permission to do what felt comfortable for me, the marketing became manageable rather than overwhelming.

Thank you, Ginger! Enjoy your tour and readers, you can get Ginger’s book from your local Independent Book Seller

at Barnes & Noble

or on Amazon.

First week in NYC by the numbers

leapandthenetwillappear
Image from illustrator Terumi Tashima and can be found under the “Typography” tab at https://www.terumitashima.com.

Last week, after 24 years living in the same small, college town in Maine, I leaped and moved to New York City. It wasn’t as all-of-a-sudden as it sounds. I had been considering, planning, and wanting to leap for a while to leverage my 15-years of experience in the children’s book world at a job at a larger publishing house.

So when both son 1 and son 2 packed for college this year, I packed too. We loaded UHauls, dropped the sons off at their institutions of higher learning and stored my things in New Jersey. I found a pet-sitting gig until September 21 and have been exploring this city.

It’s been a high anxiety week masquerading as an adventure. The reality of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs—that one must meet physiological and safety needs first (food, water, warmth, rest, safety and security) before self actualization—is shockingly apparent.

Here’s my first week by the numbers:

Miles walked: 23

Subway extremes:

  • A: Inwood/207 & Utica
  • Q: Ave J
  • N/W: Astoria Blvd.
  • 6: 125th St.

Cabs/Ubers/Lyfts: 4

Apartments viewed: 11

Apartment applications: 4

Apartment declines: 1 (still waiting on 3)

Job applications: 4

Networking phone calls: 2

Freelance job offer: 1

Creative writing on any of my works in progress: 0

Dog walks: 11

Synagogue services: 1…at which the Rabbi said, “Think back a year. You are not the same person you were then. You face the new year as a new you.” For me, that couldn’t be truer.

happy_rosh_hashanah_resized

 

 

Happy Book Birthday: The Splintered Light by Ginger Johnson

Happy Book Birthday to Ginger Johnson and The Splintered Light from Bloomsbury! I’m jumping for joy to recommend this new middle-grade book. I was honored to hear an excerpt of the book in its earliest stages and I fell in love immediately.

9781681196244

Reminiscent of The Giver, this literary debut middle-grade fantasy is beautifully written and stunningly creative.

A deep dive into a world-within-a-world, a heart-within-a-heart.” –Kathi Appelt, Newbery Honor winner and National Book Award finalist

“The joys of the senses and the glories of creation shine in this radiant debut.” –Julie Berry, Printz Honor author of The Passion of Dolssa

“Ginger Johnson’s debut is as vibrant as the colors her characters wield in this novel about creativity, collaboration, and creation.” –Megan Frazer Blakemore, author of The Water Castle and The Firefly Code

You can get a copy signed by the author here!

From the Bloomsbury website:

Ever since his brother Luc’s disappearance and his father’s tragic death, Ishmael has lived a monotonous existence helping his mother on their meager farm where everything is colorless. Until one morning a ray of light fragments Ishmael’s gray world into something extraordinary: a spectrum of color he never knew existed. Emboldened, Ishmael sets out to find answers hoping his long lost brother might hold the key.

He finds Luc in the Hall of Hue, one of the seven creative workshops at The Commons, the seat of all new creation. Luc is completing the final days of his training as a Color Keeper, adding the finishing touches of color to a brand new world designed and built by a team of young artisans. Although his heart calls him to a future as a Color Keeper, Ishmael feels too guilty to leave the duties of his old life behind. But when a catastrophe destroys nearly all of the color and light at the Hall of Hue, Ishmael and Luc are suddenly at severe odds. Torn between his family and his destiny, Ishmael must learn when to let go of the past, when to trust the path ahead, and when to believe in himself.

Or, purchase a copy

from your local Independent Book Seller

at Barnes & Noble

on Amazon

book2bbirthday

Leaving Maine: the good the bad and the ugly.

Good: After three weeks of intensive culling and packing, the UHaul was loaded and we left Brunswick, Maine.

Bad: I realized that I’d been so focused in my own moving bubble that I didn’t really take time to honor, celebrate, and leave the community and place that held me for 24 years.

Ugly: The stress, weird eating patterns over the last week, and exhaustion finally took its toll and did a number on my GI tract. After numerous stops, traffic, and a dose of Pepto, we arrived in NJ too late for the intended storage near New York City. (Plus we were too exhausted to unload anything at that point.) Now my stuff will end up in a Princeton storage unit. Not what I’d hoped but I’m rolling with it.