Yoga, poetry, a writing retreat and school/library bookings. Phew!

The last two weeks have been jam packed. This blog is my attempt to explain.

Ahhh… Princess Bride as a metaphor for life.

Okay so summing up:

  • Last week I went to Kripalu Yoga & Health Center. It was a safe and supported space for my newly-returned-from-deployment husband and I to reconnect. 
  • At the same time, I was deep into Rounds 1 & 2 of the ThinkKidThink.com March Madness Poetry Contest. I’m only disappointed that more people didn’t like my Miss Trumpet poem because I loved it so much. (reprinted below)
  • From Kripalu, I went to visit with my dear friend and author Meg Wiviott. I was able to revise a few picture books and get some perspective on life.
  • From Meg’s I went to VCFA for the Novel Writing Retreat. (Deb Michiko Florence is doing a great summary of that on her blog. Check it out.) At the retreat, I met wonderful people, got helpful (and positive) feedback on two novels. Right now, I’m trying to get amped up for another round of revisions on my crew novel.
  • All this time, I have been building a new business as a school and library booking agent!!! More about this soon but if you are a teacher, librarian, or conference planner I hope you’ll bookmark my site.

For those of you who might have missed my poetry, I’ve posted Miss Trumpet below. Happy Poetry Friday and keep voting over at ThinkKidThink. We are closing in on the final four (without preempting your favorite TV shows.)

Miss Trumpet
By Anna J. Boll

When the jazzy band, plays its jazzy jam
Miss Trumpet steals the show.
She slinks in, buttons down her back,
slender,
shiny.
With a wink she says, “Let my brass gown
glint,
in your eyes.
Let me skip you, trip you, Biddley-bop you, through meadows
Let me Wa-wa you, rock you low, slow, like a hammock in springtime.”
And when you’re even and easy she plunges you, Zweedley- BAM,
into ice cold waters.

 

I made it to Round 2, Please Vote!

Dear, Readers. I have be absent but excusably so. I had some unplugged time last week while I traveled from health and yoga retreat, to a friend’s home, to the VCFA writing retreat (More about this later.) It was a week of emotional revelations and rejuvenation but through it all, I wrote poetry!

Yes, the March Madness Poetry Tournament continues and I’m still in the brackets. For round 2 I had the word “jam” and I’m up against, wonderful woman and Highlights editor, Marileta Robinson. What an honor. (She had the word “caricature.”) I hope you’ll take a look at our poems and choose your favorite.

(If you are not a good reader of subtext– I just asked you for your vote.)

Many of the commenters noticed that we both used “jazz” in our poems even though that was not a requirement. If you surf around the site you’ll see that this sort of collective conscious phenomenon happens time and again. Super weird!

Jam vs. Caricature

Please share the link widely on Twitter, Facebook, and blogs. Parents, please share with kids and teachers. Teachers, please share with students and other teachers!

 

Has writing lost its joy?

The other day I went for my first psychic reading and there were many moments during the hour that I was completely blown away by her uncanny knowledge of me and my family.

Okay. I know that half of you are spitting chewed pretzels into your hand as you laugh hysterically. Don’t burst my little bubble here. Just go with it.  I also know the other half of you are nodding your head quietly. Either you’ve had a reading or you’ve always wanted to.

I’ve always wanted to. I’m a very head oriented person so I bring a healthy dose of skepticism with me, but I also grew up in the New Age 80’s near Takoma Park, MD and went to the Western hills of North Carolina each summer. (Yes I had a pouch with crystals and spent some time in a sweat lodge.)

As I’ve aged into Motherhood, and adult responsibilities I’ve grown out of those practices. According to the psychic– I’ve also lost my intuition and my joy.

My intuition helped me make decisions that led me on the path to joy. My decision to go to VCFA was very intuitive. It was completely the right thing to do. I looked at Ingrid’s Notes the other day and saw her amazing list of accomplishments. A year out of school, intensely focussed on revising and marketing my manuscript, I had to remind myself that just last year I had a similar list. VCFA doesn’t talk about the market. They don’t talk about agents or publishing if they can help it. Coming into the school I hated the practice. What was I paying for if not a route to publication? Now I pine for the focus on craft, the feedback of trusted advisors, the regular visits with people I love and trust. If only I could have that safe space again.


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As much as I might want to, I can’t go back to VCFA as a student. (I’m still paying off loans.) What I can do is remember the joy of writing. I can believe that I have all the resources I need to be successful. I can let go of my fear and anxiety. Write more. Trust my intuition (muse) in my work.

How do you rekindle the joy in your work?

“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.

Member Monday: Stages of writing ala L.B. Schulman

This post, Chugging through the Stages of a Writing Career, on EMU’s Debuts is so wonderful and helpful for beginning through PAL authors that I thought I’d post the link here and let you enjoy L. B. Schulman‘s words today.

I will add that there is a mental piece that I’ve found very important that is not addressed in her post. Here’s how it worked for me. After eight years of being active in SCBWI, and following the industry, and researching agents and writing and getting a first agent, and asking questions at workshops, and conferences, and retreats… I felt my writing knowledge had plateaued. I entered Vermont College of Fine Arts in July of 2009 because I no longer knew what questions to ask. Diving deep into craft, forgetting about the industry and rediscovering my love for writing and my love for the craft of writing made me realize that I would be– will always be a writer. I think this happened to me somewhere between my fourth semester at VCFA and my graduate residency. 

Do I want to my book published? Yes, and I’m working at it every day, but if it never happens I will still be a writer. My dear friend Lita Judge calls it “finding your calm.”

Currently, I am finishing my fourth week calmly waiting to hear from agents.
*checks clock, pops cork, drinks wine*

Where are you on L.B. Schulman’s list of stages and how does SCBWI meet or not meet your needs?

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.

The road to the NESCBWI Conference: Part 2: Moving on

If you are a parent, you may remember the exhaustion that accompanied those first months with a new born. However, as with the pain of childbirth, dirty diapers, and ear infections, you may have forcibly siphoned those excess memories (ala Harry Potter and the Pensieve) to make room for other more important thoughts. I had. Or thought I had.

For the last two days I watched my sister-in-law exist in the zombie state that is the milk machine, sleep deprived way of a woman with a child under two and a new born. She is my hero. Despite her situation, she was grace and kindness and patience in a way that I don’t remember ever exhibiting.

She is willing to embrace toddler time in a way I never could. You remember toddler time right? We will eventually get to that-there playground 20 yards away but only after we pick each dandelion along the way. No, I  hoisted the kiddo and off we went. This doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate toddler time, the magic of discovery, or the pleasure of the teachable moment– I’m just not practiced in its workings at present. That is, in some ways, what this vacation is about. Trying to slow down long enough to pick the dandelions along the way.

Nevertheless, it was time to move on and leave the Cutie Cutes and their wonderful mother and father behind. Time to get behind the wheel and drive to the next stop.

Meg Wiviott is the author of Benno and the Night of Broken Glass (SLJ best picture books 2010, Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards Gold Medal for Multicultural Books, CCBC 2011 Best Choice List , and the Gelette Burgess Children’s Book Award for Multicultural Picture Book) AND lucky for me she is a dear friend. Today and tomorrow we get to catch up a bit in her home state of New Jersey. We will talk about books and writing and friends. I will nap. I will read. I may even go for a run. All in my own good time.