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:
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.
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 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.
“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:
“People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love…”
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) August 13, 2017
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.
When spammers set up shop in one’s comments, one knows that it’s been too long since the last blog post. In addition to a copy editing/marketing job at a regional publisher, I coach rowing in Maine. Real spring (sunshine, warmth, flowers) starts in June here, so the last month has been a cluster of rain, flooded rivers, frustrated parents, and fabulous high school rowers. We have a couple of final practice sessions next week but this weekend I’ve been able to take a breath and do a few thing for me. (Yoga. Banana-walnut-chocolate-chip waffles with my son. Wonder Woman movie!) I’m crawling from the banks of the river to write this post and to introduce you to…
MY NEW WRITING STUDIO!
This studio is the product of two years of work to change an unfinished storage space from the back of my garage into a haven of peace, writing, and drawing. When move-in day came, I was able to unearth boxes from the garage, and closet and rediscover my art materials: fluffy brushes, buttery pencils, oil and acrylic paints and various papers. It’s been awhile since I’ve carried a sketchbook but have found myself jotting down lists of possible subject matter and warming up my hand with large, lazy, charcoal circles on newsprint. When I’m in this space, it is as if time stands still and the daily current event horrors melt away.
In other good news, I have a new agent who loved my most recent middle grade manuscript. I’m eager for her notes and ready to polish my work until it shines. Until then, I’m playing with a new mystery idea for a contemporary YA, and trying to find interview subjects for another project. (If you or someone you know is a mom who works the night shift in construction or another field, please leave me a comment, message me on Facebook, or send an email to annaeleanorjordan [at] gmail [dot] com.)
Hoping to see you all again here soon.
This morning, I see that there is mouse poop in my pantry. It’s true that I’ve heard the pitter patter of little feet around midnight. They seem to tromp back and forth across the first floor ceiling. I figured that I’d wait till after winter and call an exterminator. But this morning, I sweep up the pantry floor and realize that the dirt there is actually mouse poop, and that there’s more on the cookie shelf along with bits of foil wrap, but not just any foil wrap—Girl Scout Samoas foil wrap. Oh no, Ma’am. In the ceiling next to the HVAC duct is a classic mouse hole or two. So I’m taking things out of the pantry, and throwing a lot away, and taking other items out of their packaging and putting them in reusable containers and wincing because my hip has been hurting.
The phone rings, and it’s the assistant at the doctors, and do I want a 10:30 appointment from a cancellation? Since it isn’t snowing that hard and it’s right around the corner, I jump at the chance. When I get there, the doctor is running 30 min late. Then she sends me for a xray. Then she tries to get me in to see the sports doctor right away (read: 30 or 45 minutes later). Then the sports doctor’s assistant comes out and apologizes and says really, they’ll be an extra 45 minutes. I say I need to go home to eat something, and I’ll be right back.
However, while I’m at home, son #1 calls. He stopped to get me the mouse traps I asked for but they only have poison, which I don’t want, but while he was in the store, he left the heat and radio going for his brother, without keeping the car running, and now the battery is dead and can I come give them a jump.
So I stop eating and get in my hybrid and go to help them. The wind has whipped up quite a bit, and I need to get back to my appointment, and my hybrid hood battery only seems to have a positive point. I can’t make anything happen so I bring the boys home and go back to the doctor.
The sports doc sees me and basically diagnoses that my hip hurts. She has some idea where the pain is coming from, but it’s hard to really tell with soft tissue. Predictably, I’ll need to take ibuprofen or Aleve and find some time in my schedule for physical therapy.
I tell my son I’m on the way home and he says that the AAA guy is headed to the car so come pick him up. I do and when we get to the car, the wind is gusting, and the snow is coming down about two inches and hour. Now that the AAA guy is there, my son can’t seem to pop the hood. He tries, and tries, and finally the plastic inside hood lever breaks off the cable. We are SOL. The AAA guy calls a tow truck and says it’ll be an hour. So I take my kid home and go back to wait the hour and there’s the tow guy! The car is already up on the truck, and he’s about to leave with it. Luckily I intercept him and let him know to take it to the shop and not back to my house.
I inch home in what seems to be a white tunnel. Now I try to stay in the middle of the road so I don’t end up jumping the curb or getting caught in a drift. At home at 4pm, I turn the heat on under homemade chicken soup and pop two marshmallows in everyone’s hot cocoa.
Snow day. Good thing I stayed home from work. It might be nap time.
Edited to add:
I’m making dinner (pesto tortellini, asparagus, and matzoh ball soup) when a mouse “small, grey, and bright eyed” (with apologies to Bonny Becker and the mouse) scampered across my stove. Did you hear me? Across my stove! I screamed and scuttled backwards which brought in my son and my dog who, upon hearing “mouse,” was ready to rumble. Through a course of events which included fire and entrapment, the mouse ended up in the jaws of Lucy the valiant (or beast depending who’s telling the story.) I will be getting many mouse traps tomorrow. As soon as I can dig out.
Weighing in a just over 35,000 words, the first draft of my newest middle grade novel is now complete.
Calm down cute, fluffy, puppy. Complete is a misleading word as there are still many miles to go before it is actually finished.
No, no. Don’t be a sad panda. Now I’ll set the draft aside to marinade, pickle, steep, sleep (Oh, sorry. That’s what I should be doing now since it is past midnight…). Normally, I’d let it rest for two weeks to a month, but I’d love to get it off my desk by the new year (resolutions and all), so I may speed up the process. Next comes a revision, then beta readers, more revisions, and a thorough edit after that.
I think so too!
This is what my week has been like on a writing retreat.
I’ve written more than 8,000 words, and I’m SO close to finishing the first draft of my current novel. I’ve given myself a December 1st deadline which I’m writing here only to give myself some accountability. Away from home and television, I’ve been able to dive into the fictional world I’ve created (which is comforting considering the real world is stranger than fiction.)
If this election were a book no one would believe this plot.
“Events did not seem logical or believable. Villain was too mustache twirly”
— Justina Ireland (@justinaireland) November 14, 2016
I know for sure that next week will be crazier still with a long drive over the river, and through the woods to Grandma and Grandpa’s apartment. Driving from Maine to DC is long on the best day but around the Thanksgiving holiday I’m pretty sure it’s one of Dante’s circles of hell. Limbo? Wrath? Violence?
Before I have to get in the car and face Turkey Day traffic, I’m so pleased to enjoy my sons’ high school performance of The Great Gatsby. Their amazing trailer is here.
Finally, I always have on my mind the next action I can take to combat anti-Semitism, racism and bigotry, and LGBTQ hate in the current climate:
Phone calls and letter to my elected officials.
In-person actions: rallies and marches at the state and national level
Update donations to Equality Maine, The AntiDefamation League, ACLU of Maine, the Maine Women’s Lobby, and the Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project.
Even though the election shoved my hope in a hole, this video “Don’t Despair, There’s Work to Do,” from Robert Reich helped me see actions I could take.
Peace to all.
When the world is scary my journaling and poetry output soars, but it can be hard to put two creative words together on my novel. Sadly, my NaNoWriMo goals have gone by the wayside this week. Here are some photos of the room that I’m refurbishing behind my garage. Originally, this room was divided into three uninsulated storage spaces with no windows.
This will be my “room of her own.”
That’s my beautiful son helping me lay floated cork flooring.
That left hand wall will have a book case on it so the green will peek out from around the books.
I found the windows on Craig’s List. The space beneath the bay window will be for larger sketch pads and paintings.
Since those pictures were taken we’ve finished the ceiling and electric:
If you are wishing for A Room of Her Own, take a look at the AROHO Foundation. They do amazing work to support women writers and artists.