This is what my week has been like on a writing retreat.

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I’ve written more than 8,000 words, and I’m SO close to finishing the first draft of my current novel. I’ve given myself a December 1st deadline which I’m writing here only to give myself some accountability. Away from home and television, I’ve been able to dive into the fictional world I’ve created (which is comforting considering the real world is stranger than fiction.)

I know for sure that next week will be crazier still with a long drive over the river, and through the woods to Grandma and Grandpa’s apartment. Driving from Maine to DC is long on the best day but around the Thanksgiving holiday I’m pretty sure it’s one of Dante’s circles of hell. Limbo? Wrath? Violence?

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Before I have to get in the car and face Turkey Day traffic, I’m so pleased to enjoy my sons’ high school performance of The Great Gatsby. Their amazing trailer is here.

Finally, I always have on my mind the next action I can take to combat anti-Semitism, racism and bigotry, and LGBTQ hate in the current climate:
Phone calls and letter to my elected officials.
In-person actions: rallies and marches at the state and national level
Update donations to Equality Maine, The AntiDefamation LeagueACLU of Maine, the Maine Women’s Lobby, and the Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project.

Even though the election shoved my hope in a hole, this video “Don’t Despair, There’s Work to Do,” from Robert Reich helped me see actions I could take.

Peace to all.
 

 

NaNoWriMo Day 28: Perseverance

Okay. Let’s be honest. The NaNoWriMo people should have chosen any month other than November. Why?

  1. Veteran’s Day
  2. Thanksgiving
  3. Pre-December Agent Rejections Responses

Yes, I should have written while I was traveling with my two children to visit my family who were finally together after years and years of being in various places– but I didn’t. Now I have a flat line the size of the Colorado Plateau on my NaNoWriMo graph. It’s embarrassing but here it is.

The funny thing is that I can see a pattern. A few days off, then some productive days. I get stuck on a plot twist, talk it out with someone, then get back on the horse and ride. The other day, my friend Laura of Silver Freckles jewelry fame was offering custom wording on the wonderful pendants she crafts. Here’s my bummed-out comment and her heartening response.

If it was easy, everyone would do it. Hmmm…

I wish I had a credit for this fun image but I don’t.

Keep writing. Persevere.

 

NaNoWriMo: Day 14 & Eye on the Iditarod: Aisling’s Quest

Excuses. It seems that when we least want them they rear their ugly heads and keep us from doing the things we know we need to do. In this way, I’ve found that exercise and writing both come with their share of excuses.

I can’t possibly go for a run, I have to write.
OR
I can’t possibly write, I have to exercise check my email.

Yes, my recent excuse has been that I can’t write on the weekends because that’s when my kids are home. Now it’s true, when both brothers are here they always end up within a four foot space of my writing desk yelling at each other about some grievance or another despite my pleas for them to separate, go outside, or “For God’s sake leave me alone.” Still, a few words are better than none, just as walking is as good as running. In short, something is better than nothing at all. So you can see that my trending progress has plateaued…

…and I need inspiration.  Thus I bring you an inspiring young person, Aisling Lara Shepherd!

Aisling (pronounced Ashley) is an aspiring musher who wrote a memoir with the help of children’s author Hope Irvin Marston. Their book, EYE ON THE IDITAROD: AISLING’S QUEST, is both exciting and inspiring.

Memoir is never easy and a memoir for an eleven year-old girl doesn’t give the writer much to work with– or so you might think. With Aisling though, there is plenty to say. She started life with the adversity of serious eye muscle problems that required years of surgeries. While she recovered, she watched the Iditarod on TV, learned about mushing, and was hooked. One dog led, to a sled, which led to more dogs and races. Before Aisling and their family knew it, they were feeding butcher bits to a kennel full of dogs in Maine and supporting Aislings mushing habit. As with many activities that start with one person’s interest, the whole family was drawn into the community of mushers. Throughout injuries and dog life cycles, Aislings dream of racing the Iditarod has stayed constant. That is inspirational.

Hope Irvin Marston does a wonderful job turning Aisling’s story into a well-plotted and well-written adventure that keeps readers wondering what will happen next. The backmatter includes a glossary, teaching ideas, Iditarod resources for the web, photos of Aisling and her family (dog and person), and a wonderful list of mushing/adventure books for younger and middle grade readers. Illustrations by Bob Renaud highlight certain scenes in the text. The only complaint I had was that I wanted to know if Aisling made it to the Iditarod, but that part of the story has yet to be lived!

And… my novel has yet to be written. Today when I want to stop writing, I will think of Aisling driving her team of sled dogs through cold, and snow and how they never make excuses. They find the thrill in doing what they love to do. Happy writing.

PiBoIdMo Day 9: Kelly Light Drives Through Roadblocks

Sometimes the people who stand in our way inspire our creative journey as much as those who support us. Thank you to Kelly Light and Tara Lazar for this fabulous post.

Writing for Kids (While Raising Them)

“This person has no business being in children’s books.”

Read that again.

Imagine it being said in front of a crowd of over a hundred of your peers and various industry editors and art directors… at the NY SCBWI conference.

Your work is up in front of a big auditorium on a video screen with a panel with loud microphones when these words are spoken…

Imagine that person that it was said about was YOU.

DON”T WORRY! It wasn’t.

It was ME.

In 2009.

Yes. An art director declared me as a person who has NO BUSINESS being in children’s books … in front of the entire world of children’s books.

It felt worse than the worst college art critique I could have ever imagined. I was a grown woman. I had already had a hot career as a hot shot in cartoon merchandise. I shrunk in my seat. I…

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NaNoWriMo-Day 2

It is day two of NaNoWriMo and I’m already 1,667 words behind. I will not apologize. I’ve had an especially productive month. I sent out a re-re-re-re-revised draft of my manuscript to agents and have already gotten one request for a full. (NYC agents- I hope you and yours escaped the worst of Hurricane Sandy.)

If you’ve been reading my blog, you know that for the last few weeks I’ve also been deep in grant writing mode. Yesterday I got my AROHO application official postmarked and sent! I’ve had wonderful support from friends. A special thanks to Women’s Studies/Sociologist professor, friend and fellow student of the world, Kim Simmons whose tweets kept me going! The best part was this wonderful email from the AROHO group:

Anna,
You’ve made the commitment.  To yourself, to your work, to the world.  This is the beginning.  Thank you for cultivating your creative vision and sharing it with us. We are honored. Your proposal is one step closer to being shared with the world.  A world that is waiting.
Yours,
AROHO

Now I know that everyone gets this email, but there was something about this idea… making a commitment to myself and my work. It’s a commitment whose real beginning was about a decade ago. Let me tell you, it is a hard commitment to keep. It often comes with guilt and self-doubt. Yesterday, when I handed over that envelope, I was more sure than ever that the commitment I made was the right one.

So with that commitment firmly in place, I embark on the next project. This month I’ll be posting things that inspire and inform me. Today– two blog posts on organizing your daily writing to meet your goals.

Rabbit, Rabbit. Five on November first.

  1. I am confident that my AROHO Gift of Freedom Application will be in the mail today. I’m searching Norfolk, VA for print/copy services and hope to brave the very spread out and convoluted roads around lunchtime. The process has been a wonderful. I’ve revisited my blog posts, education, professional development as a writer/illustrator/educator, manuscripts, and community service and honestly- I am happy with what I’ve done with my life. Those who were going to apply but are dealing with Hurricane Sandy, the deadline was extended until November 15th. 
  2. I’ve been away from home this week and miss my children. For some reason, I’ve always had to parent Halloween on my own for the past many years. This year they went with neighbors and had a blast. I called last night for the report, three pounds of candy for the younger son, and two pounds for the older one. They agreed that they’d be donating most of that to the Candy for Soldiers program *after they save the Snickers for me*.
  3. I’d like to know more about the demographics of kidlit authors and I’m considering a survey. Some of it will be about advances, and agents ala this survey from Tobias Buckell. Some of it will be about women in the arts, grants, childcare, day jobs. These are issues that I struggle with and completing the AROHO application brought up a lot of emotional and intellectual issues for me. If there is anything you were wondering about our community, leave me a note in the comments and I’ll see if I can include it in the survey.
  4. Today is day one of PiBoIdMo and NaNoWriMo. If you have been working with Jo Knowles you may have started a bit earlier with JoNoWriMo. All of these online communities are great for writers because they offer 1) Goal setting 2) Accountability and 3) Support! Who doesn’t need support? I need TONS! Personally, I will be working on my new middle grade novel project. I love shiny new projects. This one has the benefit of being shiny and new but I’ve already done quite a bit of planning for it. Scenes have been workshopped at VCFA, and a synopsis has been written. I can see the climactic scene clearly and I’m eager to start the journey towards it. My calculator tells me I’d have to write 1,666 words a day to get to a 50,000 word novel but I’m happy with a daily 1,000 word goal. I’m in this for the long haul folks and hope to have a draft by Winter Break.
  5. Election day is Tuesday. Vote. I know you are sick of the ads. Vote. Some of you think voting doesn’t make a difference. Vote. I lost the election to the Maine State Legislature in 1996 by 27 votes. Vote. Some of you say that it doesn’t matter who wins. Vote. You’re wrong. Vote. I don’t usually wax political here on this blog because I don’t want to alienate anyone. Vote. But if you follow my Twitter feed you know I support President Obama. Vote. If you want to know why, please contact me. Vote. I’m happy to tell you my reasons. Vote. This video says it pretty well. Vote. If you haven’t registered or don’t know where to vote, check out the Rock the Vote Election Center. People starved and died for your right to vote. Respect their sacrifice, please… Vote.