Remnants from another life

After two full weeks of being inside
only
inside,
and tripping over my backpack
in the entrance nook
on the way to the kitchen
multiple times,
I decide to empty it for storage.
I find
a small hairbrush
earrings
lip balm
nail clippers
dental floss
mint gum
a bandaid
pain medication
wrappers from a used roll of Tums
a Diva cup
multicolored pens
my work planner
a New Yorker with a spring illustration cover
a new monthly MTA fare card
and

hand sanitizer.

If I were the president’s speech writer…

(…for a different president. Note: This is a fictional post based on facts.)

VIDEO FEED FROM THE WHITE HOUSE RESIDENCE. PRESIDENT (I’m imagining Kamala Harris or Elizabeth Warren) BY FIRESIDE WEARING BUSINESS CASUAL.

My fellow Americans. We find ourselves in the middle of national emergency, but as with past emergencies, our strength and generosity will prevail. First, I’d like to thank all of the health professionals and scientists who have harnessed their years of experience and education to provide knowledge, care, and comfort to all of those affected by COVID-19. In order to help health professionals succeed at their jobs and to support their efforts, all industries who are capable of manufacturing and providing health equipment have been ordered to do so. The National Guard, Army Corp of Engineers, and SeaBees have been deployed to build new hospitals. Military medics and nurses have been deployed to the areas hardest hit. I’ve also asked Congress to provide monies to NIH as well as other public, educational, and private labs to continue their work on fast and effective testing, cures, and vaccines.

Unfortunately, that is not enough.

We are the United States of America and while the Governors of each state have been performing to the best of their ability, the experts in the field tell us that there is more we could do.

For the next twenty-one days, everyone must stay at home. We will reassess this order regularly. The only exceptions to this order are those who work in the medical field, grocery, grocery or pharmaceutical delivery, first responders including police and fire-fighters, and grid workers including internet, gas, electricity, and sanitation.Those who fail to follow this order will receive a ticket equal to one month of your current rent or mortgage and will be sent home.

To all of those who have been self-isolating, I thank you for your sacrifice and your service. It is frustrating to see others out and about conducting business as usual when you are at home. It is not business as usual. To those of you who have not been self-isolating, I call on you to put people before profit. Close your business and go home. To help workers and businesses, I’m instituting a 30 day pause on all rental and mortgage payments and ask people to conserve rather than consume.

We must put the long-term survival of all Americans of all ages and ethnicities ahead of temporary pleasure or immediate gratification.

If we do not, our spirit of hope and potential will be killed as the number of fatalities increase. And they will. I do not have time the twelve minutes it would take to read the names of all 588 people who have passed away, 183 in New York alone, but I do want to tell you about just a few.

Oliver Stokes, Jr. who was New Orleans Bounce DJ. He was 44 years old.

Four members of The Fusco Family in New Jersey ages 55-73.

Dale Joseph Witkowski of Fond du Lac, WI who was 55 and worked making outboard motors.

Dez-Ann Romain, the school principal at Brownsville’s Brooklyn Democracy Academy in NY. She was 36 years old.

We mourn their passing and honor their lives by proceeding with compassion towards our fellow Americans of all cultures and creeds.

I will continue to speak to you regularly about how the virus is affecting legislation and security but from now on, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases who has the most up-to-date and factual information about the spread of COVID-19, will provide all daily updates via live feed from his home.

Doctor…

Holiday Selling at the Bookstore

Yesterday’s Christmas holiday was a great time to relax after four crazy days on the bookstore sales floor. I love customer service and enjoy every minute that I get to use my experiences as an educator, parent, and writer to inform people about the developmental, pedagogical, and entertainment value of quality books for children.

Here are a few take-aways from the last week:

Parents:

  • Graphic novels are valid reading! I can’t stress this enough. The world we live in today (and the world that children inhabit) is filled with a range of text and images that work together to create narrative. Sequential art and narrative follow complex rules and patterns. The form takes years to master and each title takes years to create. For more on this please take a look at Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics. ETA: If you need some suggestions, the “THE 2019 NERDIES: GRAPHIC NOVELS” is a great place to start.
  • It’s okay for kids to read on or below their reading level. I know we are all obsessed with “challenge” and “progress,” but reading something that is “easy” also provides text comprehension and analysis. Moreover, it provides enjoyment and entertainment. Ultimately, we want reading at home to be fun. Your child will be challenged in school. Don’t worry. And remember, plenty of adults crave an airport mystery or romance from time to time.
  • On that note, give your kids the tools they need to pick their own books. Teach them to read the flap copy, read the first page (or a random page) and see if the story is engaging. Help them remember the books that they’ve enjoyed. Encourage them to try other titles by that author or look for other books on a similar subject. Is it too hard or too easy? Kids can use the five finger test—if they have a hard time decoding five times on the first page, it might be too hard. If they want the challenge then let them move forward. Regarding content: people will self-censor. Unless the book is assigned, if a person doesn’t feel comfortable with the violent or sexual content of a literary work, they will often stop reading.

Editors and publishing professionals:

  • Thanks for the diversity that we’re seeing on our shelves!
  • We need more black boys in picture books and middle grade novels.
  • We need more positive representation of black and brown bodies in books generally.
  • We need diverse stories about creators and problem solvers.
  • We need more middle grade and YA books about contemporary teens who play instruments, sing, dance, and are in theater.
  • We need more middle grade and YA books about sports. All kinds of sports for both boys and girls. Gymnastic, lacrosse, baseball, bowling, rowing (hey, I’ve got one of those manuscripts!).

The Proper Way to Celebrate a Poet

My dear friends, in January I got a job as the Special Events Coordinator at the children’s book store Books of Wonder. I love the work I do, creating book events for authors and illustrators for both our 18th and 84th Street stores. In the first two months I’ve been there, we put on a successful birthday party for Dr. Seuss that celebrated early readers, picture book bonanzas, launches, and middle grade panels. It’s been very satisfying and extremely busy.

I’ve been so immersed in presenting the work of other authors and artists that I’ve completely failed to celebrate my own work. This week, the poetry anthology, The Proper Way to Meet a Hedgehog and Other How-to Poems from Candlewick launched! The beautiful book with illustrations from Richard Jones is now in the world with two of my poems included. I’m grateful to be listed in the table of contents with poets I’ve long admired.

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Our editor, Paul B. Janeczko, passed away just before publication and I wasn’t sure what it would look like to celebrate this book in the face of his death. Watching others on social media, I realize that selling the book is a celebration of his life and work. I hope you’ll support your local poet and local independent bookstore with your purchase.

If you are my Mom (hi, Mom!), or my sister, or a past roommate, and you’d like me to personalize your book, order the book from Books of Wonder and write in the comment section of the order form that you’d like Anna Jordan to sign it. I’d be honored.

Until then, perhaps everyone could write a poem or find one you love to keep in your pocket—a few words that you can take out on the subway, or while waiting in line at the grocery store, or before a test at school. A small slip that takes up space to remind you that there are poets and poetry all around us and that you are one too. I think that Paul would like that.

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.

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 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

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.

Rejected: moving forward

Included in the Anna archives that I’ve uncovered while packing–my rejection file. The bulk of these are between 2000 and 2007. After that I got an agent who buffered my rejections through emails. Then I got another agent. More emails. More rejections. I’m working with a third agent now.

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In between agents, I studied and wrote for my MFA. I just read through my packet letters from the pull-no-punches Margaret Bechard. She does not mince words and had some tough love for me about how I needed to stop holding onto old drafts in my revisions, slow down, inhabit characters more deeply, take risks, and not write so sparse when it came to setting and emotion. In reaction, I wrote WOW and 😞 in the margins a lot. That was 2010.

Now it’s 2018. Life has gotten in the way a lot. Or from a different lens, I’ve gotten a lot of new material along the way. Some of the diversions I relished; raising two beautiful young men tops that list. Some of the diversions I needed for economic and intellectual reasons. Others, I think I created because of my fear of my own art. It’s hard to be vulnerable to the deepest parts of ourselves that appear between the lines of the stories we write.

Now I face a new diversion that probably checks all of those boxes (family, growth, money, fear). A move to NYC, a job in publishing (I hope), and new stories. Moving forward.