If you’ve been following me on Instagram or if you’ve liked my Facebook Author Page, you know that I had some fun revealing the cover of the book over a full week followed by a book giveaway.
The real joy though was in writing the book. During the most difficult parts of 2020, I was able to research dogs and search for puppy pictures. I watched a lot of dog videos including many that showed the training for guide, support, and hearing dogs. All those loyal balls of fluff gave me comfort when things felt overwhelming.
Rhyming couplets sometimes came easily but other times they were difficult. Forced rhymes, rhymes that don’t scan well, or rhymes that don’t convey the correct meaning, are the bane of a writer’s existence. You can see in this bit of my notes that I often start by brainstorming and writing out in prose what I hope to ultimately convey in rhyme.
In the days to come, I’ll be sharing the actual final page that came from these notes. I hope that you’ll step up with your own doggy pictures as I count down to the on-sale date, January 19, 2021! Please tag me @annawritedraw or use the hashtag #ThisPupStepsUp.
My father used to assure me that this was a very important skill especially if one was a soldier. In WWII one had to be able to sleep standing up or sitting down, night or day, five minutes or fifty, tired or not because you never knew when you’d have time to sleep horizontally in a true bed when the moon and stars were out.
I appreciated his approval in all things but pursued this skill with a passion, so today, I’m pleased to avail you of five types of naps you’ll want to learn to be successful in life whether or not you are interested in military service.
The Cat Nap: No cat is necessary for this nap but sunshine is critical. People often misunderstand this nap as a short sleep but nothing could be further from the truth. A cat nap can last as long as the sun warms the napping space. I’ve been known to take these naps on a dock, a patio, a window seat, and on a horse (Don’t try this at home). Like a feline friend, the secret of the cat nap is to a) not care about others and their use of the sun drenched space and b) to be able to wake quickly if threatened. Stretch to your full length permitted by the space. Allow the sun to warm your limbs. Become one with the sleeping surface. Beginning nappers who say they cannot sleep during the day need not try this one.
Resting Your Eyes: To the everyday viewer, a person who is “resting their eyes” seems to have just recently drifted off to sleep. The accoutrement of daily life is still present. The glasses you wear are still on your face, your book is still open (or the book you were reading to your child), your final paper is open on your computer, the movie is on, or the newspaper is still on your lap (the paper kind or a tablet version). During an otherwise productive moment your eyelids seem to have been replaced by weighted blankets and there’s no way you can keep them open. Your head droops and the next thing you know your child, spouse, partner, friend is jabbing you in the ribs and telling you you were snoring. Check for drool and tell them, “I was just resting my eyes.”
The Idea Nap: Einstein, Dali and others have been listed as proponents of creative productivity naps. I too like to take idea naps when I’ve come to a question or roadblock in my own creative writing. This type of nap takes some preparation. First, create the optimum napping environment. For me (as previously mentioned) that means anywhere but other less accomplished nappers may need low lights, a comfy pillow, and a soft, warm blanket. Close your eyes. Ask your question to the universe. Example: “WTF is supposed to happen next in the novel I’m writing.” Breathe deeply and imagine the question hovering just above your third eye. When you wake, it will be much later in the day and time to put away your work. Problem solved.
The Bathtub Nap: Like the nap on the horse referenced above, this requires advanced napping skills as you don’t want to drown. A certain body type is advantageous. My own body is quite long and doesn’t fit in any normal bathtub. That doesn’t stop me from taking baths so warm that my white skin pinks—similar to a boiled lobster. Anyhow, I’m rarely concerned that I will slide under the water. You may find this nap is easier to achieve if you consider it a subset of the “resting your eyes” nap and pair the bath with a book, magazine, or glass of wine. Once the steam does its trick you may find you skip the heavy-eyelids step entirely. Next thing you know, you’re as wrinkled as a raisin and not at all clean. Warning: tell a housemate to check in on you if the bath goes on past an hour.
The Quarantine Nap: COVID19, the novel Corona virus, has given us access to what may seem like a novel nap but actually it is just a tumbleweed of tried and true mental health manifestations including stress, isolation, anxiety, and depression. The Quarantine nap often starts as any one of the taxonomy of naps above but upon waking, the napper looks at the clock, notices how many hours in the day still have to be filled, and chooses to go back to sleep. This can continue any number of times. Resting one’s eyes can become a cat nap when the sunbeam hits which can become an idea nap when the sun shifts and can become a quarantine nap when one decides that the day would be better off done. Movement from one piece of furniture to the next is standard. This nap is harder to accomplish with children in the house. See your doctor if your Quarantine Nap lasts a week or longer.
There you have it. The art of the nap. By the way, I have earned neither fame nor fortune with these skills but if you manage to leverage naps into either, at least credit me when you are rich.
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.
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!)
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.
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
Long Island Railroad: Syosset
F train: Jamaica
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
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
A: Inwood/207 & Utica
Q: Ave J
N/W: Astoria Blvd.
6: 125th St.
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.