Scaffolding

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.

New Year 2019! #grateful

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.

On to new and wonderful writing and work!

#GivingTuesday Suggestions

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.

Books:

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?

Weeks 8 and 9: one step forward, two steps back

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

Heneni
Here I am
scared
insignificant
inadequate

Heneni
Here I am
all I know
all I have to offer
all I have to learn

Heneni
Here I am
walking in peace
finding the light
leaving things better

Heneni

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!

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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.

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 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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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“Bakery Babies:” I ended up transferring this pencil sketch to a board and painting it with gouache but the children got stiff and the palette didn’t work.

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“Sun Salutation:” This was a trial for an illustration job. I still like this piece.

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“Kitty Transformation:” This was one of four images that showed an orange cat and ball of yarn transforming into a pumpkin. The four were scanned, colored in photoshop, and became my fall illustration promo piece.

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Concept illustration for a short story about a boy and his mother who get on a bus that is packed with human-like animals. Mom never notices because the news is way more interesting.

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“The Phoenix Towers:” After 9/11, I sketched this concept for my idea of a replacement for the twin towers. These wing-like buildings curved around a marble pool with an eternal flame. I still like the idea of the glass elevator shaft on the outside edge of the building (but I’d be too scared to ride in it.)