Summer Reading Rocks!

I’ve tried all summer to pull away from the lure of the screen: lap top, desk top, and iPhone. Instead, I spent July teaching horseback riding, taking kids on creek hikes, picking berries, singing and more as a camp counselor at Eagle’s Nest Camp (a camp that I went to as a child and counseled at during my 20’s). June and August were dedicated to my client MaineShare as I helped them coordinate the MaineShare Fair an event that will take place next week (September 9th) in Portland, Maine.

I’ve spent a fair bit of time out on the Androscoggin River rowing and coaching others. Eagles, herons and leaping fish were a gift as I glided over some amazingly smooth water. I slipped my middle grade work in progress into sunny summer slivers of time thinking deeply and working on a revision that amplifies desire, conflict and tension.

Even with all this incredible activity I made time to read. I embraced audio books with the amazing FREE audio book summer reading program at SYNC. These books filled the time on the long drive from Maine to North Carolina and back. And without Facebook, I had plenty of time to sink into a book at night. At the beginning of the year, I’d challenged myself to read 26 books thinking that one every other week would be great, but I’ve already exceeded that goal. Now I’ve increased that goal to 40 (but really I’m hoping for 52).

I have a number of adult and poetry books on my list for fall but I’m super excited about Melanie Crowder’s next (her 3rd) novel A Nearer Moon that launches next week, and Meg Wiviott’s debut novel Paper Hearts that launches TODAY!

      

Congrats to Meg and Melanie!

Now on with my summer reading list! (Books are listed in the order I read them starting in June.)

MONSTER, Walter Dean Myers (audio book). This is an amazing full cast presentation with an extra from the author explaining his research process and his interviews with numerous incarcerated young men. Highly recommended.

BUDDHA BOY, Kathe Koja (audio book). Bullying and acceptance.

MATERIAL GIRLS, Elaine Dimopoulos (eGalley from Net Galley). More on this in a later post. Highly recommended.

CIRCUS MIRANDUS, Cassie Beasley. Gentle, loving, and magical to its core, this book is the one you want to read aloud to your students this school year. It will draw your too-big-for-read-aloud-books back to your embrace. (Evidence: my 6 foot 2 inch high school sophomore beside me nightly.) Highly recommended.

THE ADVENTURES OF BEEKLE: THE UNIMAGINARY FRIEND, Dan Santat. Caldecott winner 2015.

EL DEAFO, Cece Bell. Newbery Honor. I was especially interested in this because my major was ASL in college. I wanted to see how Bell handled the Deaf community. The book is about the main character’s struggles to fit in with her Hearing family and mainstream life even though her mother is eager to have her learn ASL. By the end of the book, her interest is piqued and I got the feeling that had the book gone on the girl may have explored the Deaf Community more. There is an excellent author’s note about the spectrum of culture and language in the Deaf Community. Highly recommended.

BROWN GIRL DREAMING, Jacqueline Woodson. What can I say about this memoir in verse that hasn’t already been said? The book won the National Book Award Winner, Coretta Scott King Award, Newbery Honor, an NAACP Image Award, and is featured on many many lists. Highly recommended.

CROWS & CARDS, Joseph Helgerson (audio book). A fun recording that harkens back to pre-Civil War days, river boat scoundrels, and Mark Twain language and humor.

THE CROSSOVER, Alexander Kwame. Newbery Winner 2015.

THE SKIN I’M IN, Sharon Flake. I picked this middle grade up at a library book sale and so glad I did. First pubbed in 1998, if you loved JUMPED by Rita Williams-Garcia you’ll be engaged by Maleeka’s struggle to love herself. Highly Recommended.

STORY OF A GIRL, Sara Zarr. A quiet YA novel that digs deeply into self acceptance, family and forgiveness.

“Retreat!!!”

“Retreat!” The command conjures images of troops scurrying away from an onslaught of bullets, bayonets, and cannonballs. Smoke lifts from the battlefield and casualties lay dead and dying.

Last week I felt like a tired soldier– exhausted, bloody and bruised. Truly, the metaphor is a little dramatic but when I arrived at VCFA for the weekend Alumni Mini Residency, I was stressed, and tired, and well… sad. Not only have I been a geographical single parent since January (my husband is deployed with the US Navy) but six weeks ago, I sent my other love, my YA manuscript, out into the world of literary agents and it has been met with an ear-splitting silence. (BTW: No response as a decline is neither courteous nor professional  but that has already been hashed and rehashed. Argh.)

Throughout the weekend, the energy and love of friends helped me shed my sadness. I gave and got plenty of hugs, took copious notes at lectures and workshop, and spent way too much money on dinners. Then came the retreat.

Four days of relaxation and writing at an 1828 farmhouse in Sheffield, Massachusetts. A day in the life? We all woke at our own pace. We flipped open laptops and got to work– some writing, some revising, some emailing, some reading. The work was punctuated with laughter, conversation, and questions: “So in the subjunctive…” or “How would a thirteen year old say…” or “Hey, the stuff I wrote yesterday isn’t half bad!” Writer’s bliss.

Lovely kitchen garden with busy hummingbirds and chipmunk visitors.

Because we all pitched in on meals and clean-up, the place felt like home even though it looked like a high-scale B&B. When things got particularly hot and humid, and the fans weren’t doing their job, we went swimming or took guilt-free naps. (Naps, by the way, are crucial to the creative process. More on this later.)

Coming home, I realized that my shoulders had dropped about four inches of tension. I was happy, relaxed and rejuvenated– ready to face another round of agent submissions and to welcome my children home from sleep-away camp.

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.

Thirteen Things about vacation

1. The Adirondacks were beautiful. So many lakes and mountains and we had great weather. Favorite places. The Wild Center in Tupper Lake, (don’t miss the otters) as well as the Blue Jay camp ground there. My kids are just starting to be independent and campgrounds are a great place for that.
2. Lake George was over-developed, commercial, and quite tacky. That was a little disappointing, but if you’re looking for temporary tattoos or Simpson’s t-shirts, you’ve come to the right place.
3. Favorite moment, taking the kids white water rafting. E was scared through the first rapid and then laughed out loud on the next ones.  I love watching them grow and experience new things.
4. New York State campgrounds were all clean and beautiful. The Sacandega River Campground was my favorite.
5. Family reunions mean family. Lot’s of it. Also, reunions mean lot’s of food. I’m sure I’ve gained weight. I have to teach aerobics tomorrow and wonder if I’m going to be able to get through the hour.
6.  I’m really glad that my children are out of diapers and sleep through the night.
7. Let sleeping children sleep, let playing children play. It is so easy to overschedule a vacation. Relax and do nothing sometimes.
8. We visited the Wyoming County Fair in Pike, NY. The same agricultural fair that my husband showed cows at during his youth. Nothing has changed. I could tell he really enjoyed sharing that bit of his childhood with the kids.
9. Driving 12 hours in one day stinks.
10. Disappointing your child by not stopping in hotel when your hubby wants to drive all the way stinks too. Especially when they cry.
11. If you are a kiddo, ending up at Grandpa’s where there is a heated pool makes the long drive and no hotel a moot point. But not until you’ve had some sleep.
12. Having Grandpa tape the season finale of So You Think You Can Dance, made the drive okay for me.
13. Coming home to 140 emails, a pile of laundry, and fuzzy stuff in your frig is just part of the trip.

Six week review

Any of my “self-time”  comes to an end tomorrow when summer day camp ends. I had lofty goals of all I’d accomplish during the summer while my boys were at camp. Here’s what I’ve been doing while I haven’t been blogging:

1. I have a new non-fiction picture book manuscript (in verse) and a finished piece of art for the same project complete. Well, it’s never really complete is it? I still need to complete the dummy. I’m sending it off to an expert reviewer before I start submitting. Hoping that helps. My crit group has been wonderful at catching beats that are off. This one just called out for rhyming.

2. Research for the “dance” book has been on the back burner while the picture book took my attention. However, the kid interviews I’ve received for this project make me so excited. I’m hoping that the SCBWI non-fiction grant comes through but I’ve applied to too many of grant, and award competitions without getting chosen to get my hopes up.

3. On the conference stage, the call for proposals is online at NESCBWI. Click on “Conferences”. Please note the new Workshop Rubric PDF and the Workshop Continuum that I designed. I’m working on exciting things for illustrators…(rubs hands in a wickedly secretive manner)

4. I should be busily addressing and posting our Fall Folio Feast postcards but that will be on hold until tomorrow. Promise they’ll be out by Friday.

5. I have also been applying to day jobs. I’ve had a couple of interviews, and in one way it is nice to be “back in the game.” It feels great to remind myself of how confident, organized and competent I am in dealing with other adults instead of just carting my children around all day. On the other hand, I have all these wonderful projects that seem to be taking off, and I have “that ” feeling. You know “that” feeling. The feeling that says, someone is going to call you any day now. That last manuscript will sell. This is your year. And yet, I have had “that” feeling before. I think it was New Year of 2006 and 2005. Maybe “that” feeling is really called hope. If you don’t have hope, you don’t have much. And hope, plus tenacity and talent? Boy, I’ve got it all…
except that contract.

6. Have read Reaching for Sun (wonderful!) Deathly Hallows, (very Narnia-esque I think) and I’m reading Goy Crazy (I can so identify with this book).

7. I’m headed off right now to interview a couple with an interesting story for a possible picture book. (don’t want to jinx anything)

8. Submitted a couple of magazine queries and stories, one response “maybe if you spin it as an essay,” and two others no response yet.

9. I think I left out a couple of other manuscript submissions and a ton of sketching but that is just the regular day to day. So the past six weeks have been really full. I hope you forgive my inactivity on LJ. I’m going on vacation for a couple weeks but see you again at the end of August.