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.

img_6005

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.

De-crap-ifying

Step 1: identify that something no longer brings me joy

Step 2: think that I can get money from selling it

Step 3: post it online, bring it to a reseller, put it on my lawn with a price

Step 4: frustrated, realize that it isn’t worth anything

Step 5: bring it Goodwill

Step 6: relief and freedom that I have less

Repeat.

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.

 

Call for PAL published, mid-list, #kidlit authors

#Kidlit writer/illustrator friends! I took the summer off from blogging for my own WIP and the many transitions happening in my personal world, but great books came out all summer long.

Come September, I’ll be Back-to-School Blogging and would love to focus on your mid-list PB, MG, or YA read that didn’t get enough attention because it was a late spring/summer release. I’d like to post interviews, anatomy-of-an-illustration posts with process drawings, what’s-the-seed-of-your-story posts, and more. Ideally, I’d have enough to post M, W, F throughout September starting 9/5/18. I’ll be prepping these in the next two weeks.

If you are interested in taking part, pitch me your book/post idea with a Facebook message or email. annaeleanorjordan at gmail dot com

VCFA alumni get first dibs so mention that in your note.
If I have space for fall releases I’ll add those in.
SCBWI PAL published books only.

Melanie Crowder’s online class @The Writing Barn: Novel Foundations: The Young Adult Novel

In July of 2011 I graduated with my M.F.A. in Writing with a concentration in writing for children and young adults. I was sure that I was on my way. Publication would be right around the corner. When I received the 2013 PEN New England Children’s Book Discovery award and got an agent shortly after—I was sure that I was on my way. Publication would be right around the corner. A revise and resubmit within the year convinced me that I was on my way. Publication would be right…well you get it.

Persistence is the golden ticket in this business but isn’t easy. I’ve found that a supportive community of other writers and regular professional development keeps me going (along with my “morning pages,” thank you Julia Cameron.)

That’s why I’ve signed up for Melanie Crowder’s upcoming online class, Novel Foundations: The Young Adult Novel, through the Austin-based The Writing Barn.

bw-300x260If you haven’t picked up an award-winning volume by Melanie Crowder where have you been you have a lot to choose from. Young adult historical novels such as the beautiful novel in verse about Clara Lemlich’s campaign for worker’s rights, Audacity, or the heart-breaking An Uninterrupted View of the Sky about Bolivian prisons and the children and families who live there. Middle grade novels that range from the fantastic, A Nearer Moon, to the ecological near future, Parched, to the contemporary, Three Pennies. All of them are lyrical and tightly written stories about characters with realistic, emotional journeys.

Melanie has been kind enough to drop by Creative Chaos.

Welcome, Melanie! This is not the first class you’ve taught online, but this is the first class I’ll be taking online. As a seasoned face-to-face educator, how do you use technology to affect successful learning?

Well, if we could beam every single attendee to the beautiful Writing Barn and back again each night to resume our busy, busy lives I would love to teach this course face-to-face!

But since we haven’t we caught up to Star Trek tech yet, the online platform the Writing Barn uses is pretty seamless. Attendees can all see and hear one another, we can screen-share documents, and have a real-time conversation. I taught a course on Emotion in Fiction using this system and it went very well—we had a great group that generated some really fascinating conversations.

It seems that work-shopping one’s work with other students is an important part of the class. Are comments delivered in print or is there an actual discussion via video?

Yes! We learn so much by putting on different hats—writer, teacher, editor, student. Many times we can see elements that aren’t working in others’ work that we are blind to in our own—it can be so illuminating—especially when the topic we are covering in class becomes clear on the pages we’re discussing.

Your curriculum is chock full of basics including plot, structure, character, conflict and more advanced topics such as voice, dialogue and theme. Are there auxiliary readings or is all the content delivered during the Wednesday night lessons? How will we fit it all in?

Like most of my classes, this one will have a combo of lecture (including excerpts from mentor texts), discussion, and writing exercises. My teaching style is fluid—responsive to the needs of the individuals present—so the ratio of those different elements may shift on any given day. I will also often point attendees to additional resources that I find helpful beyond the scope of what we can cover in class.

No doubt, there will be writers with a wide range of experience. How do you tailor a class to meet everyone’s needs?

I think of learning the craft of writing as a spiral. Sometimes when we circle back to something at a more basic level of understanding, it unlocks deeper connections or reminds us of simple truths we’ve forgotten. And that applies to all of us, at every stage of our writing journey. The minute we close ourselves off to new learning is the moment when our writing begins to stagnate.

My hope is that this class will speak to writers at various stages: writers who are working on a first draft for the very first time, writers who have mastered picture books or middle grade, but are wanting to translate their skills to writing for the teen audience, as well as those who have a few YA manuscripts under their belt, but who are wanting to take their work to the next level.

What are you most looking forward to in teaching this class?

I love connecting with other writers, and the synergy that comes from our collective focus. I love seeing that light go on when new possibilities open up in a writer’s mind. Honestly—it’s thrilling!

Thank you, Melanie! I too am looking forward to meeting a new cohort of lovely writers, spiraling back to forgotten truths, and keeping my current “work in progress”—progressing. Join me!

#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.)

Since February, I’ve been working as the managing editor at American Journal and Lakes Region Weekly papers and editor at Maine Women Magazine and My Generation. These newspapers and magazines take a local approach to news and features. I’ve been grateful to work with a group of dedicated and kind journalists and editors.

Since the shootings at Parkland, the reporters have been researching and writing for student mental health series that I proposed. My hope in instigating the series was that readers would be able to use the information from the reporting to advocate for their needs and beliefs at their local school boards and in our state capitol. When we have good and balanced reporting, communities are informed to speak up for their priorities. Isn’t that really what all news is about?

That three-part series, “Under Pressure,” started publishing last week and I’m eager for people to read the amazing reporting. Please follow the links.  I’ll edit this to add Part 3 next week.

Part 1:

Under pressure: Mental health needs challenge southern Maine schools

Part 2:

North

Under pressure: Topsham school counselor has seen the profession evolve

Midcoast

Under pressure: Yarmouth team responds to variety of student needs

South

Under pressure: As South Portland schools become more diverse, so do needs

Portland

Under pressure: Mental, emotional support for Portland students largely ‘crisis driven’

American Journal/Lakes Region Weekly

Gorham High takes team approach to mental health

 

 

Madness Poetry Returns: 2018

Madness Poetry competition is back, and I’ll try once again to best the best. I’ve had a series of one-off experiences as an “authlete.” (One against Jane Yolen!) My first poem has been submitted and will be published tomorrow for voting. One big change this year is that both my opponent, Gabi Snyder, and I have to use the same word — overkill — in our poems. I love this because the students, other authletes, and the general public will get more of an apples to apples judging experience.

Please follow along and vote, vote, vote!

Edited to add: Here’s the permalink to my match up with Gabi.

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.

Poetry Friday: “One Today”

For many bloggers, Friday is for poetry. I was so pleased this week to attend a reading by poet Richard Blanco. In his presentation, the poet, civil engineer, and city planner spoke about the importance of place addressing the questions:  Where am I from? Where do I belong? Who am I in this world? Not only were the well-crafted essays and poems  a joy to experience, but I was also able to meet the lovely Mr. Blanco. Even though I was at the very end of a very long signing line, he still took the time to address each of us personally and with intention.

I first heard Mr. Blanco read in Portland’s Merrill Auditorium soon after President Obama’s inauguration in January of 2013. I couldn’t believe an auditorium that seats 1900 was filled—for poetry! When he read “One Today” for us, I had an overwhelming feeling of joy that real change was on the horizon—that we were moving forward.

In Falmouth this week, I had a decidedly different feeling. How was it that in five short years we’d gone from a nation celebrating “all of us” to…this?

There is no poetry in the presidency now. There are no books, no decorum, no diplomacy. There are only bits and pieces of anger and outrage, racism and division. There are short memories and shorter-term fixes.

Every day brings a new scandal that causes us to forget and diminish the scandal that came moments before. And all of these scandals are screens to the real changes in our country and government: lifetime appointments of ultra-conservative judges, a new “Conscious and Religious Freedom” division in the U.S. Department Health and Human Services whose purpose is to deny abortions and transition surgeries to transgendered individuals if a health provider has a religious issue with the medical procedure, free speech and freedom of the press is constantly under attack, and Dreamers and children without healthcare are used as pawns in a political game of will-we-or-won’t-we-shut-down-the-government.

Tomorrow, I will be out in the January cold to march for the home about which Mr. Blanco writes in the final stanza of his poem. Join me and vote in 2018 for the home you imagine.

We head home: through the gloss of rain or weight
of snow, or the plum blush of dusk, but always—home,
always under one sky, our sky. And always one moon
like a silent drum tapping on every rooftop
and every window, of one country—all of us—
facing the stars
hope—a new constellation
waiting for us to map it,
waiting for us to name it—together.

-Richard Blanco

9780316371445

You can check-out the picture book One Today at your local library or purchase/order it at your local independent bookstore.