Only 24 hours in a day. Or 1+1+1+1=100.

Yesterday I got a notification that my blog was having a banner day–surprising since I haven’t posted in two months–and it reminded me how busy the last two months have been. As readers of Creative Chaos might know, I’m almost two years out from a divorce and the economic insecurities that often accompany divorce can be stressful. More on that in a few…

Over the past year I’ve been pleased to find challenging and satisfying work event planning at Maine Share, doing customer service work at LLBean, and event planning at Bowdoin College. All along, I’ve been volunteering as the Program Director with my local rowing club. This spring, they hired me as their part time Head Coach as well and I’ve spent a great deal of time in the last two months on the water teaching adults and teens to scull and sweep row.

JrCoaching

In addition to the coaching and program directing I’m also SUPER happy to have found a part time temporary home at Islandport Press as their Author Relations and Events Coordinator. In this position I’m able to help Islandport authors with social media, blogs, book them in bookstores and festivals, and help create publicity campaigns and events to sell great books. (Shameless plug: please follow Islandport Press on social media.)

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We now rejoin our program of economic insecurity already in progress…

I love what I’m doing. Still, anyone who has juggled a family, writing, and more than one job knows that the sum of the parts feels WAY greater than it should (ie: 1+1+1+1=100) Part of that 100 number is the chasm of unemployment that looms with temporary jobs. Once the rowing season ends, and the temporary position with the publishing house ends I’m on the search again. It’s a feast and famine sensibility so in the last two months I’ve also written and delivered an article to the new Coxing Magazine (so exciting!), given a presentation to the Romance Writers of Maine, and taught a rowing workshop to counselors at a local sleep away camp. I’m the busy ant storing for the winter.

If there is a positive about the looming chasm of unemployment it is that I might actually get back to my works in progress (a middle grade novel 1st draft and 2 PB rewrites) which wait patiently on my computer. I also might be posting more here at Creative Chaos. I will keep you updated. Cheers!

 

April To Be Read Pile

  

 I’m almost done with HOT PTERODACTYL… and can’t wait to tell you about it. Also, I’m currently reading a Sporty Girl Book from gymnast Shawn Johnson that I’ll be reviewing over at Sporty Girl Books blog.  For my adult bookclub I’m supposed to be reading LEMONCHOLY LIFE OF ANNIE ASTER, by Scott Wilbanks, but I got scheduled to work that day so it slipped to the bottom of the pile. 

In addition to these amazing books, I’m also looking forward to new books from Julie Berry, THE PASSION OF DOLSSA, and Kate DiCamillo’s, RAYMIE NIGHTENGALE.  

What’s on your pile!

 

Children’s Writing 101 with MWPA: Blog and Retreat Links

Last Saturday I presented the workshop “The Business of Children’s Writing 101” with the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance. We had a cozy class which allowed the participants to get some great one on one attention as they crafted their elevator pitches and queries in advance of the New England SCBWI spring conference. We discussed the journey of a book from manuscript to publication, defined Midlist, and learned not to defend our work in a critique. We even got to have a mini-workshop for those who had brought picture book manuscripts.

The afternoon brought a web hunt of great kidlit blogs, social media, and kidlit community events that I’ve listed below.

Most important—we discussed that craft comes first and that if you have trouble with your pitch or query it often means that your manuscript is not quite ready for prime time.

If you missed this class and would like MWPA offer this or other kidlit workshops again, please contact Josh Bodwell, Director of MWPA. Happy writing!

A Few Great Blogs:

Through the Tollbooth: VCFA students who do in depth pieces on craft.

Lynda Mullaly Hunt, Be Someone’s Hero, No Cape Required: Specific connections with literacy, student success, and educators.

Cynthia Leitich Smith, Cynsations: Clearing house of amazing info from the industry including guest bloggers.

Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast: In depth illustrations and illustrators, process, production, and more.

Jama Rattigan, Alphabet Soup: Reviews of food-based books, poetry.

Ingrid Sundberg: Great posts about story structure, screenwriting, and plot.

Pub(lishing) Crawl: Group of authors and industry professionals posting about craft and business.

A Few Great Kidlit Retreats/Resources:

Highlights Founders Workshops

The Writing Barn

Vermont College of Fine Arts

Falling Leaves/Green Leaves from SCBWI Eastern NY

Rutgers One on One

Picture Book Boot Camp with Jane Yolen

SCBWI

 

People: VCFA Novel Writing Retreat

Isn’t it funny how you (and by you I mean “I”) can be going along not really knowing that things suck until you (again “I”) go somewhere where things don’t suck at all. The void of suck makes you (you got it right?) wonder how you let it get so bad–how you allowed the insecurity, stress and lonely trolls to creep in and squat in the corners of the room with the dust bunnies and dog fur.

This was my experience over the last week when I attended the VCFA Novel Writing Retreat. I was wonderfully surrounded by people. People who love books and writing and who struggle with the insecurity that seems to go hand in hand with writing books. People who support you and are there as a sounding board for plot issues and word choice and grammar. Add to that three square meals a day, no laundry, no bills, no carpools or volunteer requirements and you’ve (I’ve) got paradise. A huge thank you to Sarah Aronson and Cindy Faughnan who create the heavenly space for all who participate.

The retreat, with its lectures and critique opportunities, turned into a week long rediscovery and love affair with my Work In Progress. I only hope that I can keep the momentum rolling and the trolls at bay.

People who need people
Are the luckiest people in the world,
We’re children, needing other children
And yet letting our grown-up pride
Hide all the need inside,
Acting more like children
Than children.

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College Tours: A new chapter in parenting.

  • 5 Colleges
  • 3 Hotel Nights
  • 2 Nights in Extended Family Guest Rooms
  • Too many meals out
  • 3 Meals at College Cafeterias
  • 800 Miles
  • 1 Urgent Care Visit
  • 2 Sets of Antibiotics and Meds

I have entered a new chapter in parenting called The College Search and Application Process (C-SAP?). Some college search and application information and many skills can be passed from family to family and taught by agencies and organizations. Still, each child and parent/child relationship is different therefore each journey is individual. For me this is going to be a journey of learning to back off.

For instance, on the one hand, a young adult might be able to eloquently ask questions in a tour and talk to students easily but when faced with an admission counselor behind a desk that same young adult might only give one word answers. This could be difficult for the parent who knows that a more in depth answer would show what a marvelous, committed, unique and talented individual that young adult is. (All hypothetical. Of course. But you bet your a** I jumped in and started asking more specific leading questions.)

Here’s the thing, a child of 15 or 16 is almost ready, wanting to be ready, to make big decisions about his/her life and they are also, and at the same time, a parent’s baby. Nothing illustrates this dichotomy more clearly than the sick young adult. In the weeks leading up to this trip the snot had been flowing. We’d gone through miles of facial tissues and plenty of antihistamines. I’d been hoping that the crud would magically disappear when their vacation started. Instead, it multiplied and I had two sick kids. Nothing doing. They’d sleep in the car and finally get some rest away from constant homework, play and music rehearsals. We’d soldier on and do the tours anyway although I was apprehensive about how son #1’s sample voice lesson would go.

We were fine until that moment at college #3. There we were in a standard double dorm room. Two desks, two bureaus, two dressers, two beds and about twenty five parents and their children. That’s when I looked over at son #2 and saw that although he was in a winter hat and coat, he was shivering and had turned a shade somewhere between mauve and mint. We had already visited the urgent care office at the behest of my cousin who, after hearing both boys blow their noses and hack up a lung for two days convinced me that one could never be too careful. That’s how we found out that son #1 had sinusitis and that son #2 probably just had a bad cold. That hadn’t stopped the Drive-thru Doc from prescribing both kids a cocktail of antibiotics (just in case), allergy meds (?), and steroids to help with the inflammation. The group and son #1 continued the tour while I took son #2 back to the admissions office, wrapped him in a blanket and started him on the antibiotics. Good thing I did because the lab result for strep came back positive.

Once the antibiotics kicked in, both sons were leap frogging from one hotel bed to the next and having pillow fights but I was left wondering, how are these children (for whom I fill the bathroom with steam and rub their chest with vaporub and make sure they take their meds and give family medical history) going to be okay without me? They just are, and I know it. I know it from letting them go every other week as I share custody with their father. I know it as we leave each other for travel to camps and schools and conferences. I know it in the eyes of the accomplished and sensitive young men they are becoming.

My ability to back off, however, is less assured.

 

Tomorrow Night! Local Rowing Inside & Out

Hey Friends! Some of you may know that in addition to writing for children and young adults, I also am the Program Coordinator and Coach for Merrymeeting Community Rowing Association (MCRA). Tomorrow night, I’m presenting Local Rowing Inside & Out at the LLBean Camping Atrium in Freeport, Maine at 7pm. I’ll discuss local rowing opportunities, and MCRA’s programing. A significant portion of the time will be dedicated to a workshop demonstration of proper rowing technique and effective fitness training using the indoor rowing machine that sulks in the corner of your gym’s aerobic room. Wear fitness clothing and come learn how to row!

Rowing Poster

Single Parenting: Life is messy.

Thanks to Black Girl in Maine I read an article about Instagram Moms. I blog, Tweet, and Facebook so I don’t have a lot of time to put into Instagram but after seeing the beautiful images in the article I took a quick look around my little house and laughed. Okay, I guffawed. Branding your family? Let’s get real, I thought.

Since the divorce, I have had my kids basically every other week (which has been a tremendous change and emotionally seismic shift after being an all the time Navy mom with an often detached  or deployed spouse.) When the kids are to arrive I do a thorough cleaning. Toilets get scrubbed, I make my bed, laundry is done, even if it languishes unfolded and the boys have to scavenge for underwear.

When they are not here, I try not to hold myself hostage to my good-girl proclivities. There’s no one to impress anyway and my writing is the most important thing. The mail stacks up along with the TBR (To Be Read) pile. Right now I’m starting a new writing project so my resource books and notes, journals and plotting tools litter my tiny desk. I eat in front of the TV at night and binge on House of Cards while tweeting and checking in on Facebook friends to relax .

So to all the Instagram Moms this is how one Single Writer Mom lives.

 

#GivingTuesday 2015

When it comes to #GivingTuesday I try to give what little I have to support those who have made a difference for me and for many. And after working in retail all weekend, I’m pretty sure that people have money to spend to make the global community a better place. Below are some of the organizations I hope you’ll consider this day and everyday.

We Need Diverse Books: If you imagine a world where all children can see themselves in a book, this is the organization for you. From connecting authors and illustrators of color with classrooms to inspire the next generation, to grants and awards for quality books and authors, to a clearinghouse of on topic information and discussions via social media. #wndb

Eagle’s Nest Camp: Sunrise trail rides on horseback, solo overnights in the mountains of western North Carolina, technical canoeing on Class III rapids, blackberry cobbler with fresh-picked berries, costumed theatrical events, and friends and co-workers who focus on the positive, support each other, and appreciate everyone’s  diversity. Where my Buffs at? #togetherENF Give today. www.enf.org/givenow

From their website: Eagle’s Nest Camp and Foundation located in Western North Carolina this summer camp and academic semester school provide transformative wilderness and cultural adventures. For over 85 years the Foundation has focused on fostering profound individual development, connection to the natural world and responsible action to our local and global communities. Eagle’s Nest Foundation is a non-profit educational organization whose programs are designed for young people ages 6-18.

Vermont College of Fine Arts: The seeds for many of the fabulous books written for children and Young Adults are planted at VCFA. If you are a part of the VCFA community, I urge you to contribute today. If you write for children and Young Adults and haven’t at least visited the campus during a residency for a reading, I highly recommend it!

Click here to make an online gift to VCFA today, or contact the development office if you’d like to make a pledge: development@vcfa.edu or (802) 828-8555.

Maine Women’s Lobby: Have you ever thought, “Pharmaceuticals, big oil, timber, and other big businesses have someone in the capitol lobbies of Augusta, Maine. Who’s there speaking for my equality, healthcare rights, and economic well-being?” That would be The Maine Women’s Lobby speaking up and out for the women of Maine. Right now they are working on equal pay, paid sick leave, and much more. Visit their website today and give. 

 

[Review and Author Chat] Jorge Argueta on Olita y Manyula: The Big Birthday/El gran cumpleaños

Once again, Jama Rattigan has a lovely post over at Alphabet Soup. This one features a bilingual book The Big Birthday/El gran cumpleaños, written by Jorge Argueta, illustrated by El Aleph Sánchez, published by Luna’s Press Books, 2015. Enjoy!

Jama's Alphabet Soup

Look who’s here! 🙂

By now, most of you know I’m a big Jorge Argueta fan. I’ve previously featured four titles from his fabulous bilingual Cooking Poem Series here at Alphabet Soup: Rice Pudding/Arroz con leche (2010), Guacamole (2012), Tamalitos (2013), and most recently, Salsa (March 2015), all published by Groundwood Books.

Today, Jorge is here to talk about Olita y Manyula: The Big Birthday/El gran compleaños (Luna’s Press Books, 2015), a new bilingual picture book that represents yet another milestone in his esteemed literary career as author, poet, publisher and bookstore owner — a semi-autobiographical story that’s especially close to his heart.

Since founding Luna’s Pressabout 20 years ago, Jorge has published a number of chapbooks by San Francisco poets, but Olita y Manyula is the press’s first children’s book. This charming story features a young girl named Holly (Olita) who travels from the…

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