2013 in review

Thanks to The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys who prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog. The graphics are fun and the info is great. Thanks even more to all of those who followed Creative Chaos this year. A special appreciation to readers who comment. It’s always great to know that people are on the receiving end of my pitches into cyber space. (Even if it is most often my parents.)

2013 included my PEN New England win (your application awaits) and signing with my agent, the amazing Alexandra Penfold at Upstart Crow. I also took on a new business, Creative Bookings, where I help  authors and illustrators by handling their school and library booking contract and liaison work. Because I am ever hopeful, I predict good things in 2014 and ask you to continue with me on the journey. Happy New Year!

Anna

 

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 5,300 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Every day a blank slate

Happy New Year! Usually at this time I’d be setting and announcing some serious goals for the upcoming year. I’m a big fan of goals and work hard to check each task off of my ongoing list of things to-do. However, life isn’t always a to-do list. Sometimes life throws you the unexpected and you have to make a decision to follow a different path.

Right now, there is a lot of limbo in my life– I’m applying to jobs; I’m submitting to agents. It seems a little self-defeating to make a goal to be at a certain milestone on a specific path when the path ahead is so murky.

Still, there are larger things from which I will never deviate. Therefore, I’ve been greeting each day as a blank slate with the following promises to myself.

I am working towards success in my writing,
I am working towards patience,
I am working towards strength,
I am working towards joy,

…and I am grateful.

 

Five on Friday: Happy 5773 Edition

If you missed it, last Wednesday marked the Jewish New Year. (Edited to add: Technically, Wednesday was Yom Kippur, the day of atonement after the new year, Rosh Hashanah a week before.) Civil, religious, or cultural, the new year gives us a chance to right our wrongs, wipe the slate clean, set goals, and get to work. Some of us need that more than others and therefore, I invite everyone to participate and take advantage of all new year celebrations.

For me, the holiday is not about sin but about what I can do to move the world (or my little piece of it) towards peace, good health, and prosperity through good-work and kindness. I see it as sort of a sliding continuum with goodness at one side and discord at the other. At the end of the day I can look back and see what things made the sliding marker move towards one end of the continuum or the other. I can make an effort to live in a way that skews towards goodness and helpfulness.

1. I’ve found this year to be especially challenging. As of this writing my husband has been away from home for a year. We expect him back from his Navy deployment in February. This week, a single-parent friend of mine told me, “What you’re doing feels hard because it is hard.” It is. I yell at my kids when they are not to blame. The house is often a wreck even though I feel that I should be able to manage it. Long distance relationships are wicked hard. Take everything that is difficult in your own marriage or relationship and then add 6,000 miles to it. Yeah. Not easy. Still, positive thinking– skewing towards goodness– is a good goal.

2. The summer found me submitting my YA manuscript to five agents. I was pleased to get notes from each of them with helpful feedback. I wish the notes had been “Yes, and…” notes instead of “No, but…” notes, but there are still some open doors there and many more waiting for me to knock. I am using the feedback in another round of revisions and hope to have the manuscript back out and about by November 1. (Public announcement of goal. *check*) This paragraph makes me sound like robot writer– get notes, make revisions, send it out again. However, the late summer and fall were emotional and filled with self-doubt. Of course, my current life situation was a factor. (see #1) I sat down a couple of times to write a big post about self-doubt and fear in art but just couldn’t do it–couldn’t bare my soul.

3. Because of #1 and #2, I found myself looking for “real jobs” again. I applied to a couple right away, got interviews and didn’t make the final cut. I subscribe to the everything-happens-for-a-reason theory and believe that right now writing and taking care of my family need to come first. I’m still looking (searching “Event Planning, Teaching, Writing, Public Relations” in all possible job search engines) but hope to find something that starts more towards January of next year.

4. I am not idle. On Saturday, the 2nd annual Children’s Book Illustration Symposium took place at New Hampshire Institute of Art. As the main event organizer, I’ve been knee deep in those preparations for a good six-eight months. The event was a huge success. We had about 60 participants, wonderful presenters, and new this year– portfolio reviews. Evals are still coming in but generally, the symposium faculty and attendants were all pleased.

5. Friends and family have been so important recently. I’ve found amazing support from friends in my town who have taken my kiddos for overnights, or invited us to dinner. My bookclub and writer’s groups have been irreplaceable. Mom and sister know that they might have to initiate the contact but that I’m so grateful to get the call.

For those of you who enjoy a capella, here is a parting song.

Spotty Blogging Citation

You may have noticed that my blog posts are few and far between. So much so, that perhaps I am probably writing this only for myself as any audience I may have garnered in the past has probably disappeared. 

There are a couple of reasons that I’ve been posting less:

  1. I am neck-deep in my MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adult program with Vermont College of Fine Arts. The packets require a great deal of me in terms of time and emotion and reading and writing.
  2. I am illustrating a lovely picture book manuscript for an organization called the Telling Room in Portland. The manuscript was written by two high school authors and tells the story of a Sudanese child who moves into a neighborhood filled with silent, disconnected residents. He and his new friend create community through gardening. The book will be released in May of 2010.
  3. I am journaling for myself more in a paper and pen way. Most of my entries there are about my insecurities and my process as I go through the MFA program. Some of that will come up here too so don’t feel that you are missing out on anything.
  4. I’m also journaling for my main character in his own composition book. This helps me get to the voice and emotional core of my character in a messy, down and dirty way.
  5. I’m using all the in-the-cracks time to read books for children and young adults and yes old adults as well.

So I have the following thought:

Since tonight is the beginning of Rosh Hashanah (The Jewish New Year) and I need to make a resolution, and also to make this blog relevant to the wider world, I will review some of the wonderful books that I’ve been reading. I know, this is not a new or unique idea and there are plenty of other blogs out there for this but I’m going to give it a try. I will attempt to post reviews each Wednesday and will review at least one Middle Grade book, and one Picture Book. These could be fiction or nonfiction, audio or traditional. I’m not going to venture into the YA realm here, there are so many other wonderful blogs out there for that.

So what will you get here that you won’t get anywhere else? Me. I bring my experience as a writer but also as a parent of two boys, a teacher, a student of writing and an illustrator. I’m hoping that the reviews will help parents find books that their children will love. As my son’s teacher said last night, "If your child doesn’t like reading they just haven’t found the right book for them." If you have titles that you’d like me to review, leave a note in the comments. If you’d like a fresh start to your year, you can also leave your New Year’s Resolution in the comments. Happy Reading! See you on Wednesday.

Happy New Year!

 Each year I check the archives and see what I wrote last January.  I’m amused that I was contemplating an MFA a full year ago and that I’m back to the same discussion. It seems a perennial inner conflict. Now to the top 10 high points of 2009.

1. The Move. While it has not been an especially happy highlight, I’d be remiss if I didn’t give it some space. Interestingly, it has become its own character in our family story. The Move and the Job sit on our shoulders a menacing reminder of grown-up decisions. Certainly, we are lucky to have Job and therefore Move was necessary. However, they are the characters that catch your eye in the mystery. Red herring or villan?

2. Old friends. My old writing group disbanded and I moved, but I became even closer with some of my writing buddies. The Schmooze was again a high point as was my collaboration with Joyce. Facebook and my 20th high school reunion allowed me to reconnect with friends of long ago from school and camp. It is good to know that those folks are well.

3. New friends. A move is hard on everyone but I’ve made a few new connections here in Maryland that have helped me through difficult times.

4. Family. The best part of this year has been being physically closer to my family. It has been great for the kids and even better for me to be able to get to see my parents and siblings more often.

5. Freelance work. I really loved writing to deadline and interviewing some amazing military servicemembers and tradesmen and women about their work, and their dreams for the future. To all of those who are away from their families in service to our country I send you wishes of Peace.

6. WRITING. Even though things have been crazy (the move, freelance work, the conference) I have continued to write. I finished and revised a novel for submission, revised a PB for an editor (still waiting to hear), and collaborated on a new PB.

7. The election. What an amazing year for a political junkie. The results. I’m confident that President Obama will bring honesty, and intelligence to the office and restore our standing in the world even if he cannot "fix" the great number of issues that plague us.

8. The 2008 NE SCBWI conference. While it is a ton of work, being involved in the regional SCBWI on this level is incredibly rewarding. I loved working with our fabulous volunteers, meeting industry professionals, and seeing it all come together. See you April 24-26, 2009 for this year’s conference. Note: registration will happen online, and participation will be limited to the first 400 registrants. Watch the mail for your informational postcard and http://www.nescbwi.org come mid-January.

9. My kiddos. From piano to  poetry, plays to playoffs this has been a big year for my children. I’ve so enjoyed watching them solve problems, try new things, excel, grow and question the world. I’m very proud of them.

10. I got an agent! I am very thankful that Steve Fraser is such a supportive agent. It has been difficult for me to release control of the manuscript marketing piece but letting go is part of shaping a relationship. The other is communication and honesty. I found that when I was straightforward about my needs, I felt more comfortable about representation.

The year is brandy new and I’m looking forward to all that it has to offer.