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.
 

 

Member Monday: Old news or news to you?

I’m just back from a two-week research/family trip to Italy where I visited Florence and small red-roofed, hill topped towns in Tuscany. I’ll be posting more about that later this week, but first I’m passing on some of the news, blogs and articles that I missed while I was away. Perhaps these are just old news, but perhaps you missed some of these too. Hope they are helpful.

Most important on my list is this announcement from SCBWI. The On-the-verge Emerging Voices Award. I’ve been sitting on this since before my trip, itching to tell you all about this news and then they go and announce it at the LA SCBWI National Conference. Follow the link above for the full press release but here is a quick snippet.

The annual award, established by SCBWI and funded by Martin and Sue Schmitt, will be given to two writers or illustrators who are from ethnic and/or cultural backgrounds that are traditionally under-represented in children’s literature in America and who have a ready-to-submit completed work for children. The purpose of the grant is to inspire and further the emergence of diverse writers and illustrators of children’s books.

Here is the link for the grant eligibility, process, and deadline. 

This issue is close to my heart. I hope that writing programs across the country, most notably VCFA, my alma mater,  and Hamlin College– and publishing programs, NYU and others will stand up and take notice. Action can be taken to increase diversity in publishing. Here are some thoughts from the CBC Diversty blog from those in the industry.

Here is a wonderful post from Laurie Halse Anderson that discusses the lack of diversity on the recently released NPR YA list.  Happy & Sad about the NPR Top 100 YA List In her post she also posts the following links which are important enough for me to list them again here:

On NPR’s Very White Best Young Adult Books List, by Shaker Laurie.
Reading in Color’s Booklists

And… one of my favorite sites The Brown Bookshelf.

(The link for the NPR Top 100 YA List is here if you haven’t seen it.)

In other old news:

Women On The Rise Among The World’s Top-Earning Authors This is an interesting article on celebrity authors but I’m not exactly sure what it says for the rest of us. The article celebrates that there are now six women on the list at all. Perhaps I’m a glass half empty person, (No, I’m not.) but what I see here is a continuation of women earning 78% of what men earn. Even if you go from the Stephen King’s $39 million (instead of James Patterson’s $94 million) 78% of that is about $30 mill. That- and below- is where we find the women.Of course, once you get into the millions of dollars, this may matter less but it is still true. For more on gender and writing see my post here or take a look at VIDA- Women in the Literary Art’s annual count for 2012. 

Publishing Is Broken, We’re Drowning In Indie Books – And That’s A Good Thing Okay. I need a while to both read and process something like this but if you are interested in the economics of the publishing industry and are concerned/interested in the changes in traditional vs. digital, this is the article for you.

That’s it for today, friends. Read, write, draw and do at least one of those outside. Two weeks and counting until kids go back to school in the home of Creative Chaos.

Book Review Wednesday: A Wreath for Emmett Till

Recently,  the name Emmett Till has surfaced quite a bit in relation to the  Trayvon Martin case in Florida. Houghton Mifflin’s teacher guide to A WREATH FOR EMMETT TILL gives the following short explanation of Emmet Till’s death.

Emmett Till was a fourteen-year-old African American boy murdered in 1955 in Mississippi for allegedly whistling at or speaking to a white woman. Though two men were tried for the crime, they were acquitted; no one has been convicted for Emmett’s murder. In 2004 the U.S. Justice Department reopened the case based on new evidence brought to light by two documentary films.


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Marilyn Nelson’s  A WREATH FOR EMMETT TILL is a heroic crown of sonnets– a sequence of fifteen interlinked sonnets, in which the last one is made up of the first lines of the preceding fourteen. The final poem is also an acrostic that reads RIP Emmett L Till.

The book was published in 2005 and won the 2005 Boston Globe—Horn Book Award, a 2006 Coretta Scott King Honor Book, a 2006 Michael L. Printz Honor Book, and a 2006 Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award Honor Book. Nelson is not a stranger to awards and prizes and holds three Coretta Scott King honors for her books EMMETT TILL, FORTUNE’S BONES, and CARVER and the Newbery Honor for CARVER: A LIFE IN POEMS.

With all of these awards, my opinion is unnecessary. Instead, this posting is a way to alert those of you interested in poetry and social justice about this sophisticated, complicated, and emotional book of poems.

I mentioned in a comment last Wednesday that we learn and retain new information when we have a scaffolding of previous learning upon which to hang the new knowledge. To this end, EMMETT TILL came across my desk at just the right time. I happen to be completing my first reading of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. The classic courtroom and coming of age novel transported me to the deep south in 1935. While writing this post I also found out about “Strange Fruit” the 1936 poem about lynching referenced in EMMETT TILL. That poem was published by Abel Merrapol and made popular by Billie Holliday.

It is the season of Easter and martyrs, death and rebirth. Further, it is the season of Passover. I spent this afternoon teaching children about the importance of remembering  history so we will not be doomed to repeat our mistakes. Each year, Jews try to put themselves ourselves in that place of slavery, and deliverance so that they we will not allow slavery and injustice to happen again. But injustice is all around– in far away lands and close to home.

The poems of Marilyn Nelson remind us of this. Below is the fifth stanza, and I’m taken with how it captures my feelings for Trayvon Martin’s parents.

Your only child, a body thrown to bloat,
mother of sorrows, of justice denied.
Surely you must have thought of suicide,
seeing his gray flesh, chains around his throat.
Surely you didn’t know you would devote
the rest of your changed life to dignified
public remembrance of how Emmett died,
innocence slaughtered by the hands of hate.
If sudden loving light proclaimed you blest
would you bow your head in humility,
your healed heart overflow with gratitude?
Would you say yes, like the mother of Christ?
Or would you say no to your destiny,
mother of a boy martyr, if you could?

This book crossed my path at the exact right time.

While researching this post, I found a video of an hour long speech/reading that Ms. Nelson presented at Politics and Prose in Washington, DC. The section of the video on this book starts around 15:00-34:00 and she discusses the heroic crown of sonnets structure and the final acrostic poem. She also reads the entire book in the most melliflulous voice.

If you are interested in more information about Ms. Nelson, please follow the links to some of these other online resources.

There is an NPR interview with Nelson who was the Connecticut Poet Laureate at the time.

More about Marilyn Nelson at the Poetry Foundation here.

And a ton of links at Teaching Books including slide shows, videos, and other websites.

Five on Friday

 1. Looking over my blog posts recently I can report that they are decidedly political. (Go figure) I am not apologetic because politics is a lot of what makes me, me. But, since this blog is mostly about me and my pursuit of the allusive book contract, I’m posting more policy and political stuff on my Obama.com blog page here. So many feel a sense of ownership after this week’s amazing events. Come on over if you’d like to stay apart of the Obama community.

2. Like d_michiko_f  I have a husband who is often out and about on business. (I haven’t counted the total days this year Debbie, but I’m sure you’ve got me beat.) To those of you who single parent all the time you know that it is no piece of cake. But I think the difference is that when you are always the single parent you own that constant sense of decision making and responsibility in a way that on again off again single parenting does not allow. Hubby will be home on Sunday. Good thing because I’ve run out of energy. Last night we went out for dinner, this morning we ate breakfast at McDonald’s, and tonight we had macaroni and cheese (and broccoli)  Needless to say, I’m ready for my sweetie to come home.

3. The reason we ate at McDonald’s is because my children left their homework papers at school. This has been a regular issue for my organizationally challenged (OC) child so last night I barked, "We will wake up and go to school at 7 to get those papers and you will complete your work!" Well at 7:30 we did indeed make it school. "Mom," says my OC child, "it’s not going to be open." "Why didn’t you say that to me last night," I asked, "or this morning when we got in the car." "Because I didn’t think you’d really make us do it," he said. I got a chuckle out of that one. Once in, we got the papers and staked out the McDonald’s fun room as a quiet study hall away from the old guy coffee club. (free refills) They finished everything.

4. I finished my freelance newsletter and a press release in the midst of election euphoria. So glad! Today, I worked on getting out the rest of the workshop contracts. Now onto the folks who are doing any sort of crits. Hopefully I can take a few days to just do novel work and not worry about freelance stuff. I’ve noticed that my internet cruising has decreased sharply since the election was decided.

5. Today is poetry Friday. Here is a fall acrostic from my son. E.C. Boll (his own spelling)
Leaves chanje color
Evereone is playing
Apples are ripe
Varee quiet
Everething is still
Sharing
It reminds me a little of cfaughnan ‘s thoughts today.

Edits we can believe in…

 I’m actually sharing this Obama video for a writer reason. About 2/3 of the way through, Senator Obama is sitting with the speech writer making edits. Before the camera goes into the room, we see a sign that says Edits Changes we can believe in. I thought you all would appreciate that. The family interactions are also so sweet.
Watch the video…

The Deadlines Approacheth

Things have been crazy busy. This is crunch time for conference planning, I’m working hard at meeting my monthly freelance deadlines, my WIP is tugging at sleeve, and I’m trying to slog through daily household and family chores. This said, I still found time to request my Maine absentee ballot and vote for Barack Obama. This week, registration deadlines are popping up in many states. This is a turning point election. Don’t miss your chance to have your voice heard! 

No matter where you live, if you have three minutes to spare, you can check your registration status, register to vote, request an absentee ballot, and find your early voting site or polling location at VoteForChange.com.

Five on Friday

 1. Hooray for LJ. I have rich text on Safari. Thank you.
2. I find that I like to work in sweeping waves. All novel. All newsletter. All conference. Unfortunately that doesn’t take dates, deadlines, and billable hours into consideration. I’m learning to manage my time better.
3. For me, a big part of writing is reading about writing. I just got the 2009 CWIM and found some great inspiration. Nancy Lamb’s, The Writer’s Guide to Crafting Stories for Children is one of my recent favorites. 
4. With all of this writing, illustration (art in general) has disappeared from the schedule. I’ve been plotting, composing in my head and I’m eager to find a time to follow through. Still, I’ve decided to generally focus on writing and leave the illustration to someone else. This is only giving me passing waves of sadness. Perhaps I’m too overwhelmed to miss it. 
5. Exercise has also disappeared from my schedule.  I tried to go walking with my hubby in the mornings but late nights watching the convention ended that practice. Maybe we’ll start up again this weekend. 

(I know I said five but I didn’t talk any politics at all yet)
6. What a historic line-up of candidates. It makes for a very exciting election but do not be caught up by any candidate’s historical first. I choose to back Obama because of his focus on the future of this country. I believe he is a candidate who will work to find common ground, will nominate supreme court justices who protect our civil liberties, and will focus on the complex issue of economy/education/and environment. I believe he is honest, and intelligent and I urge you to join me in supporting the Obama/Biden ticket. If you have specific questions about policy and feel you haven’t heard enough, go to http://www.barackobama.com/issues/ and find out more. Be educated, be active. Vote.