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 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.

 

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

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

 

 

Remembering Paul Burgett

The thing about the ones we love is that we tend to think that there’s more time. That there will be a tomorrow. That we can make that call another time.

Just now, I found out that University of Rochester Vice President Paul Burgett, (Dean of Students when I attended) passed away. And while Dean Burgett was not a family member by blood, he held that place in my heart.

Like most U of R students, my first interaction with Dean Burgett was when he taught my freshmen class the alma mater at our orientation. He had attended the music college at U of R, Eastman School. His rich baritone anchored us to the fields beside the Genessee River and connected us with the history of the place. A place where Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony were both celebrated. Even though he was an administrator, he taught an African-American music history class. He told us then that he’d intentionally set up his office in the student center so that he’d be available to us any time.

I took advantage of his invitation often. (Probably more than he wanted to see me.) I met his assistant Bev, another amazing person, who stood by him throughout his career. Our meetings were just times to chat about music and art and travel. When I made occasional trips to campus, I visited him. When he became Vice President, he changed offices but still made time for students.

He helped me with career choice, wrote recommendations for me, and believed that I would succeed.

Dean Burgett was University of Rochester for me.

Last fall, my son was looking at University of Rochester too. I contacted Dean Burgett again, and, despite his busy schedule, he made time to give Ethan one of his trademark bear-like hugs. U of R wasn’t Ethan’s first choice but he said that if he went, V.P. Burgett would be the main reason.

I never properly thanked Paul for all the time, music, and positive energy he gave to me, gave to others, and gave to an institution he loved. He was a voice for all the students but was especially supportive of the Black Student Union and others. I assumed I might see him at my 25th reunion this fall. Now, I can’t believe I’ll never get one of those hugs again.

Rest in peace, Paul. You left too soon. I had so much to tell you.Dean Burgett.jpg

The University of Rochester has set up a tribute page here.

 

#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:

img_5612
“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.
img_5611
“Sun Salutation:” This was a trial for an illustration job. I still like this piece.
img_5613
“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.
img_5614
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.
img_5610
“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.)

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.

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.

 

 

Let’s Stand Together

“If you were on a airplane that was hijacked, and they said Jews go to left and everyone else go to the right, what would you do?”

I was at a non-denominational summer camp when this question came up. It was the summer of 1984; I was thirteen-years old, identified as Jewish, and there had been three hijackings in the news. My friends and I had just talked a Florida camper down from tears. She was sure that her plane would be diverted to Cuba.

These are the conversations you have when adults aren’t around. They are conversations that force you to face who you are and figure out what, if anything you would stand for. I remember my question to the questioner: “Wait. Do you know that the hijackers are against Jews?” The answer. “No. You don’t know if something is going to happen to the Jews or not.”  “Then no,” I answered. “I don’t want to die. I’d say I wasn’t Jewish.”

Because of how I choose to present my Judaism, it’s pretty easy to be overlooked as a just another white person who might raise a tree on December 25th (I did in 20 years of marriage to a non-Jew) and eat chocolate bunnies in the spring. (Who would pass up chocolate—not me.) But that ability to pass, often makes me privy to microaggressions and anti-semitism that sometimes happen within closed groups. To avoid that, I often declare myself as Jewish early in new work relationships. I’m no shrinking violet and it’s my moral imperative to not only speak up for all underrepresented people in negative situations but also to advocate positively for diversity and equality.

The growing anti-semitism in our country goes hand in hand with other messages of hate and othering against: Muslims, immigrants, LGBTQ people, and all brown and black people. The recent comments (from those who sit in the whitest White House in recent history) about Emma Lazarus’s poem on the Statue of Liberty and our President’s on-going reaction to the racist and anti-Semitic events of Charlottesville  bring me to tears. There is no doubt that KKK and neo-Nazi members, and others who label themselves as white supremacists are emboldened by the friend they have in President Trump. I am equally aghast whenever I see Jewish organizations supporting this president.

What does one do when it looks as if our entire country has stepped into a time machine that takes us back to (reveals that we never left) an amorphous period between 1890 and 1969?

I recently found this New York Times Article, “Revocation of Grants to Help Fight Hate Under New Scrutiny After Charlottesville.” In summary, President Obama earmarked $400,000 to the organization “Life after Hate” to help members of hate groups out of extremism. When President Trump took office, he rescinded those grants. I’ve donated to the organization in the hopes that, as President Obama Tweeted:

In addition to my donation, I will continue to shut up and listen to those who face bigots daily simply because of the color of their skin. I will stand up, speak out for, and ask difficult questions about equality, diversity, and peace in my art, writing, personal, and professional life. I will suggest wonderful books to children and families that provide empathy and education. And if, G-d forbid, I am put in a situation where I have to declare my identity and face possible harm, I hope we will all stand together on the same side of that plane as human beings.