Happy Book Birthday: The Splintered Light by Ginger Johnson

Happy Book Birthday to Ginger Johnson and The Splintered Light from Bloomsbury! I’m jumping for joy to recommend this new middle-grade book. I was honored to hear an excerpt of the book in its earliest stages and I fell in love immediately.

9781681196244

Reminiscent of The Giver, this literary debut middle-grade fantasy is beautifully written and stunningly creative.

A deep dive into a world-within-a-world, a heart-within-a-heart.” –Kathi Appelt, Newbery Honor winner and National Book Award finalist

“The joys of the senses and the glories of creation shine in this radiant debut.” –Julie Berry, Printz Honor author of The Passion of Dolssa

“Ginger Johnson’s debut is as vibrant as the colors her characters wield in this novel about creativity, collaboration, and creation.” –Megan Frazer Blakemore, author of The Water Castle and The Firefly Code

You can get a copy signed by the author here!

From the Bloomsbury website:

Ever since his brother Luc’s disappearance and his father’s tragic death, Ishmael has lived a monotonous existence helping his mother on their meager farm where everything is colorless. Until one morning a ray of light fragments Ishmael’s gray world into something extraordinary: a spectrum of color he never knew existed. Emboldened, Ishmael sets out to find answers hoping his long lost brother might hold the key.

He finds Luc in the Hall of Hue, one of the seven creative workshops at The Commons, the seat of all new creation. Luc is completing the final days of his training as a Color Keeper, adding the finishing touches of color to a brand new world designed and built by a team of young artisans. Although his heart calls him to a future as a Color Keeper, Ishmael feels too guilty to leave the duties of his old life behind. But when a catastrophe destroys nearly all of the color and light at the Hall of Hue, Ishmael and Luc are suddenly at severe odds. Torn between his family and his destiny, Ishmael must learn when to let go of the past, when to trust the path ahead, and when to believe in himself.

Or, purchase a copy

from your local Independent Book Seller

at Barnes & Noble

on Amazon

book2bbirthday

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.

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.