Blog

Anniversaries

Today’s my 28th wedding anniversary. Memories of that day make my heart brim with smiles.  It was a beautiful sunshine filled fall day.  My parents, who have both since passed on, were by my side, and my family was filled with love and happiness.

I’ve been blessed to have found a love to share life’s journey with.   Life hasn’t been so easy and I’ve often found myself in conversations with God expressing my feelings that I’ve/we’ve reached our quota of  trials, obstacles, difficulties. After which I’d rationalize, with the higher being in our one sided conversation, that therefore it was time for us to have a little luck.  Today as I looked back at the memories we made, I realized we’ve had more luck than many. We’ve had happiness every day that we’ve been in love.

Anniversaries are collectors of and often celebrations of memories. There are so many kinds of anniversaries: birth, death, wedding, work, etc.  Today I started to think about a writing anniversary. I’ve never heard any one mention that. I think that’s because when you’re a writer, its almost as automatic as waking, or eating, you’ve just always done it. Its hard to pinpoint when you started. But I think it would be a good idea to have a writing anniversary. It would help to keep alive the memories of your creative journey, and bolster you up when you’re at low points.

So, I’ve decided to think on it and choose a date that for me will be the day I have a yearly celebration of my writing.  It’ll be cause to treat myself to a fancy cup of coffee, a cookie, and maybe even give myself a present, a new pen, notebook, or book to commemorate the day and celebrate my efforts.

Will you join me?  After all, we all could use something to celebrate.

Til soon,

Jan

Advertisements

Persevere

This was the comic attached to the October 4th Publishers Weekly Children’s Bookshelf.

464-1

I read it and related to both characters. I’m in the middle of revisions on an early chapter book that my publisher is interested in. I’m about ready to submit a picture book manuscript to an agent. Both of those are good, positive things. I’m in a good place writerly speaking, yet the last panel of the comic is what struck me. It took the wind right out of my sails, because it hit on my self-doubts.   What if the publisher doesn’t like the revisions?  Well it could be either into The ABYSS or off to the realm of ABANDONED IDEAS. Same thing with the picture book manuscript that I’m almost done with as well as the one that is at an agency.

Reading that comic was definitely a downer. Still I captured the image thinking I’d share it in a blog post because it is a very writer relatable feeling.

Then I read a blog I follow, Pointless Overthinking, and saw a more positive outlook offered by none other than J.K. Rowling. The youtube video was done by Evan Carmichael.

I know some writers aren’t fans of  hers but I am. She’s an excellent storyteller who captured each of my children’s reading minds.  I’ve read her series aloud to each of my three children and watched the subsequent movies multiple times. Just last week her books once again have been taken off our shelves to be re-read by my son, now 16, and my oldest daughter used to re-read the series every summer until her junior year in college.

 

I appreciated her openness and empathized with her emotions, and so I thought others might too. Her attitudes reflect on the last panel of the SLUSH PILE comic but they oppose it as well.

My favorite rules of hers are #2 Take action on your ideas, #8 Persevere.

What are yours?

 

Changing Seasons

As of tomorrow, October is here! Its one of my favorite months of the year. Weather allowing, it fosters transition, which not only includes seasonal changes, but also a change in mindset.  I think this is especially so for me because I’m a teacher and the beginning of the year, for me, corresponds with the start of the school term.  Now that the organizing of September is out of the way, we can get down to learning, exploring, creating!

And here in the northeast, the blending of beautiful sun-filled days, seemingly like summer, warm enough for the beach . . .

img_1392.jpg

 

yet mixed with the vividness of autumn,

 

img_1400.jpg         IMG_0989 IMG_0412       IMG_1378

and swirled with slightly cooler temperatures is just plain deliciousness.

I hope you have a chance to enjoy!

IMG_1342

‘Til soon,

Jan

An Invitation to Imagination

An invitation to imagination-a way into your creative mind. The idea all came about because of THE HAPPINESS PROJECT which I’m currently reading.

img_1377-e1537709267675.jpg

In the book, the author, Gretchen Rubin, has an idea for a “Happiness Box” a collection of moments to help her remember happy thoughts and memories. In her box she places things that remind her of different people in her life, different times in her life, things that remind her of the qualities of hope, chance, love.

Something about that idea struck a chord in me.  I had been different items, scattered about my house, that I thought might one day become a story or part of one. Wouldn’t it be cool to keep them in a box, that once opened became an invitation to imagination? I don’t know about you, but I thought it was a great idea. So I did just that.  The box was easy to pick.

IMG_1374 One of the first gifts my husband had given me was a box he’d made for me out of narrow pieces of wood. It’s a beautiful box and I had a few things in it, but it begged to have a greater purpose. So I went about the house gathering the things that I had thought could become part of future stories I might tell: the little red door that had fallen off my daughter’s bird house years ago (who would go in such a door, or out of it?), the button with a star etched into its center (it’s twinkle just spoke of magic), the little ceramic mouse with an expression of friendly expectation, the half of a bicycle key chain from Amsterdam (perhaps the mouse would ride it as a unicycle?)

Collecting them and putting them inside a box reminded me of the beginning of To Kill A Mockingbird, when we see Jem’s box full of the things Boo had hid in the knot of the tree, so Jem and Scout would find them.

unknown.jpeg

Holding something in your hand that contains good memories, feelings,perceptions, connections can open you up to happiness, creativity, and if all goes well, it could invite your imagination to create a story, an image, a poem, a dance, a song and that’s always a good thing.

Would you consider making your own invitation to imagination? What would you place inside?  I bet you have some ideas already.

 

Writing Perks

 

Why is it our mind focuses on the negative so much more quickly than it does on the positive?

img_1359.jpg

It seems that as writers, unless we’re in the sweet spot of writing a new piece that has yet to see another set of eyes, we often speak of writing in a negative way- the edits, the revisions, the doubt as to whether its drivel or not, the rejections, the commas that should or shouldn’t be there. The list goes on.

But writing is full of perks, if you think about it.  You get time to think, to daydream, to wonder.  You get to leave reality for a bit, that’s my most favorite perk.

You get to live in a world of your own making with characters you’ve created, most of you who you like.

Even if you’re a non-fiction writer you can still leave reality a bit, especially if your topic is on one particular aspect of the world,  rather than the bigger picture which seems to be on a steady trajectory moving from bad to worse.

I digress . . . back to non-reality, you get to go along with your characters on their journey and throughout their efforts you root them on, after all you need to get to the end, and then you get to see them achieve their goals at the same time you do-Finis!

Here’s another great perk–field trips!

img_3330.jpg                      fullsizerender2.jpg

I recently visited Central Park to check out the logistics of my characters movements along its upper east side.

fullsizerender3.jpg

As a writer for children, there may be more perks than writing for adults, because of the need for positivity in your story. Children’s stories have to have a sense of hope and and element of happily-ever-after which lends itself to feeling good about the world.

And to think that we’re working toward this goal of writing better and honing our craft in order to reach the pinnacle of perks- that of having a steady income from writing that will allow us to do all of the above!

Writing perks! I hope you get to enjoy them all!

Can you think of writing perks you enjoy?  Please share I’d love to hear your perks.

‘Til soon,

Jan

 

 

 

Writing picture books is no joke

In a recent tweet agent Tracy Marchini of Bookends Literary, remarked on something that hit home for me. To authors who’ve received some notice from agents but haven’t been able to clinch the deal she said to grab a piece of paper and ask themselves “What do I need to do to make my writing more attractive to an agent or editor?” and she said to jot down everything that comes to mind. Maybe there’s a craft issue that they subconsciously know is a problem but that they haven’t been quite ready to face. Maybe they’ve been receiving the same feedback in rejections and its time to take another look at that project. Sometimes, she said, we know what we have to do, and we just need that extra push to do it.

And in a recent blog post, Try three times and fail-a quick breakdown of traditional picture book structure, check out its entirety at tracymarchini.com, she talks about the basic outline of picture book structure-three tries and a fail before the main character succeeds in a, or with a,  somewhat surprising twist ending. She discusses the need for a logical progression of attempts, the need for tension, a variety of illustration opportunities, the need for the main character to solve the problem and the need for the main character to learn an emotional lesson.

Phew! That’a a lot to pack into the limited word count of between 500 to 600 words.

But I’m on it and making progress (see my hieroglyphic dummy below-yes I know it doesn’t look like progress but I’m telling myself that it is so don’t burst my bubble). The point is I found her suggestions helpful to refocus, which is why I wanted to share it, as it might help others who are in the thick of picture book plotting.  Best of luck!

 

IMG_1355

The start of something . . .

A new school year, a new school (be it college, graduate or pre-school) a new job, a new work in progress, starting a new revision on a work in progress,even starting a new habit (hopefully healthy) all contain the unknown.  How will it work out?  Will it be a success? Will it work for the best? What will you be like during and after?

The unknown- can be exciting, anxiety provoking, even a bit frightening. But still, as Gandalf says to Pippin when he notices the palpable quiet that precedes the upcoming battle in  The Return of the King, “Its the deep breath before the plunge.”

resized-rdixl.jpg

 

That’s how it feels around my house this weekend. My younger daughter is heading off to start her sophomore year in college. She has a long flight ahead of her and way too much luggage. I can almost hear her thoughts, I can certainly feel them.

It’s universal this feeling of the “unknown”.  It doesn’t matter your age. It presents itself for your notice and will not go away until it has been given its proper due.  You can look on it with trepidation or you can look on it and acknowledge that you’re not alone in feeling it.  I feel it, my children feel it, my students I’m positive will feel it come the first day of their new school day routine, as will their parents.

I also feel it, as a writer, having finished a rough draft of a revision that still seems to be  missing the mark. It needs to be tackled anew-it needs me to start it not as a familiar thing, with sentences that I don’t really want to cut, or metaphors that are too close to my heart, but as if it were a brand new piece filled with the unknown and so filled with excitement, wonder, adventure, joy.

To my own end I’m looking positively toward pulling myself out of the lightning sands of the Fire Swamp of my revision while keeping my fingers crossed that they’re are no R.O.U.S. (Rodents of Enormous Size) headed my way.

image94-e1535913881270.jpg            rodents-of-unusual-size-e1535915670105.jpg

If you have any suggestions about techniques that’ve worked for you when revising please share!!

I hope your new ventures set off with thrilling starts and that by all means you do your best to avoid the Cliffs of Insanity.

download.jpg

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”-J.R.R. Tolkien

All the best,

Jan