Even though I had a week before the big reveal to digest the news that I was one of the winners of the PEN New England Susan P. Bloom Children’s Discovery award, I was not quite prepared for the outpouring of digital love that came my way. My blog and twitter feed gained followers, I gained friends on Facebook, and I heard from friends who haven’t contacted me in years. My comment boards lit up, and for a moment I thought, “Oh my, everything has changed.” That was until I opened up my WIP, stared at a blank page on Scrivener, and slapped myself upside the head. The hard work, joy, and pain of writing haven’t changed one bit.
What has changed is that I get a moment to celebrate. After a particularly difficult year that often felt hopeless, I find myself with a group of growing businesses serving authors and illustrators. I get to read a manuscript that I love in front of members of a community that have taught and nurtured me. I’m in this situation because the difficult things forced me to expose my writing and myself to the universe in a way that I had not been brave enough to try in the past. (Note to self– no one can see your awesome manuscript if it sits on your desk.) Yes, the universe works in mysterious ways.
I also get a chance to be recognized in my community of writers for my writing. Here’s the thing about our community and SCBWI in particular. There’s no one standing at the door telling new authors or illustrators they can’t come in. You can be in a room full of 1000 people at a national conference and have no idea who can write well and who is new to the craft. This allows people to be welcomed and safe, while they learn and grow. I’m grateful for this, and I’m grateful for the community of writers, illustrators, librarians and teachers who gave me a digital hug this week. Thank you all for your kindness.
Thank you! Shepherd Elementary School Early Readers.
This morning I accompanied my mother to her volunteer position as a reader for the Shepherd School Early Readers program. I’ve discussed the program here originally, and here as a follow up. (So I suppose this is a follow up to the follow up.) I was fabulously surprised by the number of books that my colleagues at the MidAtlantic SCBWI region collected and was there as an SCBWI representative to take pictures and do a little research for an article I’m pitching to the SCBWI Bulletin. I DID NOT know that I was the main event. How wonderful for me that I got to talk a little about my own book, do a reading, and meet the inspiring children who will read these donated books.
They kept thanking me, and gave me a gift, and that wonderful signed poster in the picture– but truly no thanks was necessary: 1) the MidAtlantic SCBWI folks did the heavy lifting and 2) being able to read to and take in the energy of the kids was more valuable than any gift.
It was just what I needed to keep working on my new novel and handle the agent waiting game– AGAIN. At the end of the studying, and the work, and the art, and the craft, and the business, is the children. Let us all give thanks for the readers.
From time to time I post about service projects to benefit of members of the children’s and young adult writing community, the writing community at-large, and readers. I’ve gotten good news from a couple of those projects recently and thought I’d follow up.
In May, I had heard from the Maine Writers & Publisher’s Alliance about a tragic fire at the Darthia Farm (a frequent location of writing retreats for the organization.) The barn had been destroyed and many of the animals killed. This week, I received a thank you email from the farm for my donation. Thank you, from me, to any Creative Chaos readers who also may have donated. They have rebuilt and have had donations of new animals as well.
There are more pictures of the new barn, happy animals, and children visitors at the Darthia Farm blog here!
In June, I posted about a volunteer literacy initiative at my own Shepherd Elementary School in Washington, DC. After I posted here, I also contacted Ellen Braaf who is the Regional Advisor of the SCBWI Mid-Atlantic region. I told her about the lack of books and asked if she might put my notice in her occasional newsletter. She went one better and posted the call for books in their annual conference materials. At that recent conference, the support for the literacy program was wonderful. SCBWI Mid-Atlantic members, and industry professionals donated boxes of books to the help the program. My mother, who volunteers for the program, is so pleased and we both extend our thanks to Ellen and the generous members of SCBWI, Mid-Atlantic. She can’t wait to bring the books to the school in the upcoming weeks.
Writers and artists often struggle in isolation. They face self-doubt and fear at their easels and desks. Sometimes the celebrations can be lonely too. That’s why friends who make art, and write must stick together. If you need a reminder of this fact, simply consider the acronym F.A.R.T.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, just like the noxious fumes that emanate from one’s tuchas, true writing and art friends are hard to get away from. Sometimes they announce themselves loudly with a knock on the door, sometimes it is just the gentle “bing” of the Google chat notification. Even if they seem to disappear for a while, they come back stinkier stronger than ever. They release tension, bring humor, and when your insides are twisted in knots over your current WIP– they make your tummy feel better.
Today I met with the incredibly energetic and optimistic Julie Kingsley. (the very same person who nominated me for the Lovely Blog award.) Julie and I share many talents: we both write, we both teach, we both parent. But the one thing that Julie can do that I can’t– she can read palms. Perhaps it was her past life as a gypsy wanderer, or a paranormal gift with which she was born but the woman can tell the future.
Okay. Maybe she can tell the future and maybe she can’t.
What a friend can do is look in your eyes and tell you the truth. She can see the positive when your rose colored glasses are foggy. She can wipe the glasses off for you, point you in the right direction and give you a swift kick in the tuchas.