A room of one’s own

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!

Anna's Studio.jpg

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.

 

 

Big Announcement!

I promised you all that I’d post an announcement yesterday and even though it was the longest day of the year (Happy Summer Solstice), I didn’t post. Perhaps you are reading this on your tablet next to some pool, or you’ve just dropped off some child at camp and you’ve decided to check your email… whatever the situation, please forgive me and thank you for coming back during your weekend.

I’m so proud to announce that I’ve signed with Alexandra Penfold of Upstart Crow Literary. I love this explanation of the agency name Upstart Crow from their website:

To begin with, it is an insult slung at the young Shakespeare in 1592 by older, more-established, but less successful playwright Robert Greene. His obvious irritation at the younger artist’s pluck and nerve is, we think, typical of the response of the old guard toward any new talent. There is something in the phrase that speaks of courage and brio and daring, and we feel we should all be upstart crows when it comes to our writing and our work.

I wish I could say that I was a young artist, but my journey has been too long to claim that. (Ten years? Thirteen?) What is courageous, however, is to persevere despite the obstacles, and daring to dive into craft and care more about the journey than the outcome. I had finally gotten to that point. I had finally reignited my love of writing for writing sake. I had decided to open up my schedule and say to the universe (often aloud into the trees around my home) writing is my priority. That was when good things started to happen. First, the PEN New England Susan P. Bloom Children’s Book Discovery Award and now representation by Upstart Crow.

Of course this is just another step in my writing journey, but I couldn’t be more pleased than to have the smart, savvy, connected, experienced, communicative, compassionate Alexandra Penfold on the journey with me.

Poetry Friday: Keep surfing, no poetry here folks..

I’ve mentioned
my YA manuscript.
It’s out
and about:
lunching with agents,
riding beside them
on the train.
There has been one decline.

The kindest,
most gracious letter
I’ve ever seen.
It even has a posticom.
Casing, jamb and hinges
constructed from
letters
words
sentences.
A secret reentry door.
A FASTPASS™ at Disney World.
For free!
But nothing is free.
To open the door
I’ll need to find my re-vision glasses
checking all the places
I’ve already looked
bed-side
by the tv
under the papers by the computer
until I realize they have been
perched atop my head
from the very beginning.

I hope
the other wonderful women
(agents all)
are enjoying their summer
and their children
(fur or otherwise).
They should be flying kites
dipping their toes in cool mountain lakes,
getting sand in their swimsuits
after chilling in salty seas.

Truly.

It is summer.

I am busy too.
Packing for Italy
where I will research a book.
An idea that floats
and anchors
and floats again
in the grey matter
behind my eyes.

In Florence
there will be art
and architecture.
In Tuscany
bikes rides,
and wine with my husband
(In the flesh.
First time
since January).

In September
sunny summer days
fade fast.
We gear up for school
syllabi,
and supplies,
and deadlines,
and then,
maybe then

The agents will
breathe deep
open overflowing files
and read.

All in good time.
Click for the Poetry Friday Round-up

Member Monday: Stages of writing ala L.B. Schulman

This post, Chugging through the Stages of a Writing Career, on EMU’s Debuts is so wonderful and helpful for beginning through PAL authors that I thought I’d post the link here and let you enjoy L. B. Schulman‘s words today.

I will add that there is a mental piece that I’ve found very important that is not addressed in her post. Here’s how it worked for me. After eight years of being active in SCBWI, and following the industry, and researching agents and writing and getting a first agent, and asking questions at workshops, and conferences, and retreats… I felt my writing knowledge had plateaued. I entered Vermont College of Fine Arts in July of 2009 because I no longer knew what questions to ask. Diving deep into craft, forgetting about the industry and rediscovering my love for writing and my love for the craft of writing made me realize that I would be– will always be a writer. I think this happened to me somewhere between my fourth semester at VCFA and my graduate residency. 

Do I want to my book published? Yes, and I’m working at it every day, but if it never happens I will still be a writer. My dear friend Lita Judge calls it “finding your calm.”

Currently, I am finishing my fourth week calmly waiting to hear from agents.
*checks clock, pops cork, drinks wine*

Where are you on L.B. Schulman’s list of stages and how does SCBWI meet or not meet your needs?

Mama Camp in Pictures

You may have noticed (or not) that posts are less regular here at Creative Chaos. That’s because my full time job as Director of Mama Camp (read: parenting) has kicked into full gear. There have been many field trips.

Trips to Hadlock Field to watch the Portland Seadogs.
Number two son kayaking at Sewell Pond.
Number one son climbing the “jumping tree” at Sewell Pond for the first time.
Window shopping in Newburyport with cousins.
Jumping frigid waves at Plum Island.

And lots of time at the best library on Earth, Curtis Memorial Library where we are busy with fun crafts:

Paper bag owls.

the coolest Teen Zone ever:

CML Teen Zone with awesome graphic novel/manga collection and great audio books.

wonderful lifesized animal sculptures (there’s also a whale, a unicorn, and a friendly boar):

Number two son and paper maché giraffe.

and the best of all… Fabulous librarians who care about books and kids:

The best Youth Services librarians ev-er!

You can imagine with all this action that there has been little time to blog, or to write for that matter. Here’s what I’ve been trying to fit in between Mama Camp and sleeping.

  • Rowing (Link for video. I’m in three seat. The camera moves to starboard around 4:44)
  • Running (Sadly I haven’t been biking but I need to change my rear tube.)
  • A work-for-hire editing project that has been an awesome experience.
  • Subbing to agents for the first time in three years. Nothing yet. (BEA, ALA, and 4th of July are now over. I’m on pins and needles.)
  • Working on NESCBWI Illustrator Day. Save the date: September 29th, 2012.

Happily, sleep away camp is a couple weeks away and I’m eager for the break. I’ll take that time to go to the VCFA Alumni Mini Rez and a writing retreat. I’m psyched to see everyone. Cross your fingers that I’ll have good news to share by the time I get there.

Happy summer.

NY12SCBWI Roundup. Yee-Haw!

If for some reason you missed the tumblg,tagging and tweeting from the SCBWI Winter Conference in New York City, pull on your riding boots for the conference round up.

In this corral over here we’ve got we’ve got the VIP cocktail party Friday night. Agents, editors, and art directors schmoozed and enjoyed “Artisian Cheese Displays,” after their hard day at work. I spoke to some of those but also rubbed elbow with the assistants who told me that things had been pretty quiet. That must mean that they’ve recovered after the December lull, and it is prime time to start subbing again. 

Over here, we’ve lassoed some industry professionals. This group: Jean Feiwel, Barbara Marcus, Nancy Paulsen, and Rubin Pfeffer, is chock full of historical knowledge about the publishing industry having built Scholastic to what it is today. Now they are at MacMillan, Penguin, and East West Literary. They discussed their impressions on the present and future children’s book industry and brought us some new vocabulary. “E-tailers” are purveyors of e-books, “Discoverability” is the chance the consumer had to find your book in the millions that are out there. This used to happen through indie bookstores when the awesome retailer hand sold your book. This panel mentioned that with the demise of Borders, indies have actually had their best season in years and that the support of all of us is really helping. (Shop local.) “Transmedia” is the addition or transportability of your content into other media formats. 

Throughout the weekend, speakers agreed that publishers are moving towards more commercial, hard-cover best sellers, and that these best sellers allow them to publish the midlist. High concept is definitely on their mind. This idea was repeated by the agent panel on Sunday with the caveat that you have to have a “hook.” This doesn’t mean that you need a paranormal YA to get published. Agents Regina Brooks, of Seredipity, and Ken Wright, of Writer’s House, explained that publishers are always thinking: “Where is this book going to go? How are we going to get it there? How is the author going to get it there?” Certainly this is marketing and Regina Brooks has even added a Social Media strategist to help her authors develop their online presence. Ginger Knowlton spoke about the many web related links that she checks in on each day so that she can be in the loop about publishing developments. Note: you do not have to read all of these and if you do- you will never write/draw again. Here they are:

PW Marketplace
PW Lunch
PW

Media Bistro

Read Roger

The Passive Voice

The Shatzkin Files

Digiday

When we weren’t in the Ballroom, we were moseying into the breakout sessions. My favorite was the revision workshop with Cheryl Klein. If you went to that session, she posted the links that she mentioned at her own roundup. Yee-Haw!

At the Saturday night hoedown aka the Gala Dinner, the tables were arranged by region and I was thrilled to meet some of the Northern New Englanders who showed up. We ambled away from our tables to join the larger group from Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut. It was great to see everyone and we hope you’ll come to our New England spring conference April 20-22nd in Springfield, Mass. If you think you want to come, do it quickly. Joyce Johnson (one of the co-directors) kept us up-to-date all weekend with the registration numbers. (300, 350, 400, 450) A speedy sell out seems inevitable. 

The big news from the conference is a new grant for midlist authors, funded by New England’s own Jane Yolen. The rules for the grant are not on SCBWI.org quite yet, but if you are interested, keep checking the grant tab at SCBWI.org. I’ll announce when it is up as well and post a link on my twitter feed @annawritedraw. The money, as much as $2,000, is award to a nominee who had published at least two PAL books but has not been published in a year or more. You must be nominated and the money is intended to help you reinvent and reinvigorate your career. 

Here’s a few personal pictures from the trip. 

The bathroom in my hotel room (for Cindy Lord)


Times Square


Anna and Casey (the NESCBWI Illustrator Coordinator) at Mary Poppins

    
92nd Street and The Jewish Museum, 
Anna at the Jewish Museum to see the Ezra Jack Keats Exhibit


Joyce in the rain through the orchids. 


New York City dogs wearing rain coats (Maine doggies just wear their own fur coats)

If you’d like to see more pictures or post your own, visit the NY12SCBWI tumblr. http://ny12scbwi.tumblr.com/

As always: Any opinions expressed here are entirely my own and not the views of the SCBWI. FMI www.scbwi.com

Delaying the Happy Dance

I am back in the singles game anew, looking for that soul mate, that agent of my heart. Yesterday’s post by Editorial Anonymous, regarding the enthusiasm of new authors upon being offered representation, caught my eye. An Offer of Representation. The responses to Editorial Anonymous were filled with hysterical laughter and LOL’s. I can only hope they are laughing at themselves because they have experienced first-timers eagerness and not because they are laughing at those of us who have.

This business is about as personal as you can get.  We are not selling water bottles (as one agent pointed out to me) we are selling our creative property. And while creative property is not really a piece of our souls, it takes a lot of soul (and time and work and energy and sacrifice) to create property worth selling. So surely Editorial Anonymous can understand the relief that comes when someone from an industry filled with "no" says that they recognize our talent and our potential– when someone finally says, "yes."

One of the comments to the EA blog post asked, "What should I be asking?" I wondered the same thing before I had a talk with the agent who first offered me representation. At that time, I Googled the subject and jotted down a long list of questions, asked them (not really paying attention to the responses). What I knew then was that my "yes" at the end of the phone call meant that I had moved one step closer to my dream. One step farther on this long (getting longer) journey.

What I learned in the 18 months I spent with my agent is that we should be asking ourselves, "What do I need from this relationship?" What kind of communication do I need? Email, phone? Do I want to be left alone? Do I want someone to check in with me on my WIP? Should that person ask about my personal life or do I want the relationship and communication to be completely business? How often does the agent need to contact me about submissions? How about pulling manuscripts? How do I see my career progressing? What houses do I want to work with (if you know)? How much editorial help do I need? Why am I getting an agent in the first place?  What type of work do I do most often and do they represent that kind of work? If you have a clear picture of yourself you’ll be able to honestly say, "This is who I am, this is what I need, can you give this to me, and can we put it in the contract?"

Perhaps next time I’m offered representation or a contract (I have high hopes that this will happen) I will be self-assured enough to delay my happy dance, ask for the fine print and ask the right questions.  I can’t promise anything.

Hello. This is a friends locked message.
Just want to tell you that I’ve parted ways with my agent. Therefore, I’m looking for new representation. Here’s what I’m hoping for:

  • someone who will not think that I am over-bearing or pushy, (even though I am sometimes)
  • someone who will give editorial feedback on new work, which includes telling me if they think something is ready for submission or not
  • someone who has a communication style that includes giving you comprehensive information about to whom and when your work will be submitted and is good about checking back on those manuscripts regularly, and getting back to you.
  • someone who calls or emails you from time to time,and might even be interested in who you are as a person, your family, and the other works you have in progress
  • someone who is open to author-illustrators

If you are represented by someone like this and would like to refer me I’d really appreciate it.
Thanks all.

Friday Five

1. Roar! is off my desk and with my agent. I’m eager to hear his feedback and hope, hope, hope he likes it. Cross your fingers for me.

2. Because Roar! is off my desk I brought my sewing machine to the first grade to help sew memory pillows. They draw on a square of white muslin, pick a calico backing and bring it to parent volunteers to sew it up.

3. Then came home to paint the still incomplete master bathroom. It is green. I love green. But not this green. I think I hate this green. It reminds me of the cinder block walls in my elementary schools or hospital scrubs. But it goes with the green glass mosaic tile that hubby chose and I said yes to. So now I have to live with it. But not for long because…

4. One month until I move.

5. Last night, the parents played against the kids on my son’s baseball team. Picture me in deep left field. The crack of the bat. The ball comes soaring in my direction. A high fly ball. I run to it, glove outstretched, closer, closer, “I GOT IT” I shout. Then thunk. It slides right into my glove. I wish I had a clip hear for you to see. Alas there is none. But there are witnesses.

The agent and the ballet

I have had an amazing couple of days in the big apple. Hold on to your hats, ladies and gentlemen there are bound to be lots of smiles and maybe a squee or two.

On Tuesday, I was pleased to interview Cameron Dieck, and up and coming 19 year old from Mount Cisco, New York who has been dancing since the age of 3. He entered the School of American Ballet his fifth grade year and has had his eye set on the New York City Ballet ever since. He was the recipient of the 2007 Mae L. Wien award for outstanding promise. Cameron is  on the far right with the other young people.

Below is an excerpt from my notes of the experience:
“The teachers break room at the School of American Ballet (SAB) is furnished with modern furniture: strong lines, steel and chrome are joined with grey and black cube inspired furniture. The young man seated across from me is the opposite of his surroundings. Tall, a little over six feet, Cameron Dieck sits folded into a couch in a cozy maroon Harvard sweatshirt and jeans that accent his lean long legs. He has an infectious grin and sparkling eyes that light up when he talks about ballet and cloud over when he discusses the bullying he had to endure in middle school because of his love for dance. Our interview was more of a conversation and lasted for about an hour. These are the best interviews of all. Cameron is intelligent, well spoken and kind. I keep wondering if he is this way with all reporters or if we’ve so quickly become friends.”

Yesterday, I spent the day at SAB. Amy Bordy, the public relations person at SAB has been welcoming, friendly, and supportive and really opened the whole school to me. I know this is a treat and an honor and I am thankful beyond words. Amy took me on a tour of the school taking particular pride in the newly built additional studios which are suspended above two original studios that once had 30 (?) foot ceilings.
They each have deep, sprung floors and are surrounded by glass walls to take advantage of the huge windows in the original studio below. I also got to learn more about the residential program for students. Security is number one priority for the students who are sometimes as young as 12 in the summertime. Programing provided by the Residential Director helps build community, and integrates these talented young people into New York City safely. Many of their students are selected from a national audition tour so they have young people from all over who may be new to city living. After the tour, I was honored to observe the partnering class for advanced students taught by retired NYC dancer Jock Soto who is famous for his partnering techniques. More here. I will never watch ballet the same way again. His instruction was precise, demanding, and filled with examples from the everyday. Teaching 14 and 15 year olds is never easy. Teaching them to  create characters that understand the intricacies of relationships (including intimacy and sensuality) is near impossible but he did it all with a lovely sense of humor. The next class I saw was the 12 and 13 year olds. I was struck by their strength, centering and ability to remember the combinations. My kid can’t even remember the lunch box on the counter. The instructor John Stafford, principal dancer for the NYC ballet, was kind and gentle even when they lost focus. According to Balanchine, all music at SAB is live. The baby grand pianos are staffed by experienced accompanists who are able to pluck the perfect bit of music out of the air to go with the combinations that the instructors develop on the spot. If you are a boy interested in ballet SAB is the place to be.

I was a little star struck at meeting veteran ballerina and school administrator Kay Mazzo. I’m afraid I said little but “thank you so much,” over and over again. The thank you’s continued when Amy produced two press tickets to the NYC ballet for last night’s performance. My sister-in-law Sarah and I sat 10 rows back from the stage at dead center of the State Theatre at Lincoln Center. More here. We watched “Double Feature,” a homage to the black and white silent movies of the 20’s choreographed by broadway choreographer Susan Stroman. (The Producers, Young Frankenstein) One ballet was a melodrama the other a Buster Keaton type comedy and both were infused with humor and of course incredible dancing technique. While the choreography was not difficult for the dancers it must have been fun. The storyline required a bit of over acting which was fun to watch. Sets and costumes were all shades of black, white and grey and the occasional subtitles on the back screen completed the cinema feel.

I feel that I’ve gone on too long, but let me just say my meeting with Secret Agent Man (Don’t you love that song?) was so uplifting that I ended up on the 86th floor of the Empire State Building with the city wind in my hair. Everything looks rosy from up there.

On Sunday, I’ll go home, see my children and get to work feeling validated as an author/illustrator. Someone with good work to add to the world. But first, the conference…