Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Daily Word Challenges

When I first started writing seriously towards publication (back in 2008) I used Inkygirl's Wordcount Challenge. My goal, every single day, was to write 1000 words. 

If I didn't meet my daily goal, I would simply pick it up again the next day. This is how I got through every first draft I've ever written. 

As life changed, as I shelved novels, slugged through revisions, and juggled multiple manuscripts, I made lists, instead, concentrated on chapters or scenes, switched my mind on and off from one project to another, and the daily word goal disappeared.

Now that I'm a few thousand words into a current rough draft, I think of the Wordcount Challenge. I think of its simplicity, its malleability, its guilt-free calories. 

So, I'm pledging 500 words a day for this rough draft because that is what I can handle from 9-10PM each night after the little one falls asleep. And if I don't meet the goal one day, I'll pick up again the next, and if the weekend is full of sun and family and friends, I'll pick it up again on Monday. And so it goes.

Sometimes, novels feel daunting, bridgeless and river-wide. But if I think of it in 500 word sips, it feels manageable. It feels more like joy. 

If anyone wants to play along with me, let me know (you can challenge yourself to get anywhere from 50-1000 words, whatever works for you.)  It's always more fun to do it together.


Sunday, April 20, 2014

Happy Easter

I am not a religious person but I have always loved Easter. When I was a girl, we'd go to church the night before. My grandmother held my hands in hers to keep them warm, a small thing between us, always, because my hands are known, even to this day, for being ice cold.

The Easter Vigil mass at St. Paul's was spectacle. It was black night dark even inside, where we entered holding candles. We'd shuffle in the pews soundlessly, creating neat rows of soft, swaying light. The sermon was long but full of quiet song, and we named hundreds of saints, asking, almost humbly, for their prayers.

As the night progressed my candle would melt towards its little paper holder. I'd worry the wavering flame would extinguish too soon. But, as midnight came, I'd hear the booming sound, the eager tribal beat of drums, and my eyes would flicker and turn, as one by one, the lights above came on, one after the other, until the entire church was blazing yellow and gold and gilded again, a small symphony, no longer brewing, but blaring, vibrating through the walls to my jittering insides.

I love this day for the memory of those nights, the hands that held mine, and all the day symbolizes. For the hint of crocus through the dead leaves, the sunrise of daffodils, the rainbow of tulips in their rows. For the newness of light after darkness. For the rising, the discovery, the wonder, the miracle, the tale of rebirth.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Diversity In Publishing

I rarely (or never) do link-ups here but diversity in publishing, particularly diversity in children's literature, has been such a hot topic and I've been following the conversation with great interest.

I'm asking the same questions of myself and my own work that others are asking, and have been asking for years. Where are the different faces? On the pages and behind them? 

I thought it would be interesting to share the conversation here and ask if you've been reading any articles as well.  Please share any links in the comments.

Where Are All the People of Color in Children's Books? by Walter Dean Myers

Cognitive Dissonance by Mike Jung

We Need Bigger Megaphones for Diversity in Kid's Lit by Kelly Jensen (which has an even bigger round-up of links)

Monday, April 7, 2014

Thinking About Friendship

Today (and always) I am grateful for my friends because, in recent weeks, I have discovered how difficult it is to make new ones. I have felt like a child, walking into the new mom groups or the classes and even the email feeds, feeling, as I have always felt: that I never quite belong. And I remember that my awkward, stammering conversation, my melancholy, my rambles, my long silences, my way of feeling so frantic or uncertain I forget to think, my words a runaway tumbleweed, are things that old friends, good friends, still tolerate.

I write this, not to be coddled, only to be honest, and to remind myself how lucky I am.

A lot of my friendships are founded on the basis of the yes, yes, oh! me too! exclamations. But some, and these are not any lesser, I treasure because we think in a pattern of opposites. I admire all my friends. There are pieces of them I wish I could steal for myself. Someday, I think, I'll make a new patchwork me, out of them, all stitched and sewn.

I have felt, in these past few weeks, that friendships of proximity no longer satisfy me. It is not enough to live nearby, to be close in age, to come from the same place or stand beside one another in the same stage of life. There is something greater at work. An understanding.

I hate small talk. And introductions. I hate what do you do where do you live where do you come from and, yet, I don't know any other way to begin.

I hope I am stumbling towards the people who become friends because one of us has followed a wild, meandering line to the other.

I hope you and I and all of us smack into each other when we are not looking.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014


I didn't get a photograph to capture today. I walked right through it, the sun on me like a cat. I felt something surge, that maybe spring, that sprout of soft purple crocus amongst the crush of leaves and yesterday's snow and felt that wow, that what, that West Side Story's Tony song of something coming, I don't know.

It's been a long winter. The longest and strangest I've ever had, as a new mom, holding on to a new little thing that belongs to, not just me, but, the world. I spent a lot of time rocking my heels and swaying from side to side and shhhing and looking through the bamboo shades, sent into hibernation without sleep.

It might be a new book or a new life or a new you or a new me. It might be all of it or none. But today, I just felt that swell, that lift. Maybe you felt it too.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Thinking About The Business of Play

It seems I've been pre-occupied with the concept of 'play' for quite some time. Seven years working at a toy company and it's a task I've been faced with daily, creating a play 'experience' for a child. There are a lot of hands in the making of a toy, too many to list here, designers, engineers, marketers, and a lot of push and pull from many forces. My job, as a content producer, is to make the toy come to life through story and character and to force a sense of logic that, to a child playing, doesn't feel like logic. That feels seamless, uncluttered, and free.

In that time, I have had to develop a play philosophy, and that has always been to let the child guide the play, to let them make their own discoveries, and to never hand them an experience that feels structured or overwrought. With so much push and pull, with so many hands, I'll admit I haven't always been able to make that happen. But that has always been and always will be my goal.

And, as a writer, that play philosophy extends to my stories. It affects how I write (which is to say, with complete chaos and freewheeling insanity.)  It affects what I write (words that are often, I'm told, too dreamlike, un-sequenced, and strange.) And it places great faith and trust in my reader. I'm not saying it's the best way to write or do things, it's just the way I write and do things.

So, it is with great interest that I read this piece by Hanna Rosin in The Atlantic, The Overprotected Kid.  A phenomenon that isn't new to me (in fact, I wrote a little of it in 2011 after attending a conference about, what else (!), play.) but this focuses on the idea of 'supervised' and 'safe' play and the new playgrounds that are being built to allow children to stray from that.

Rosin discusses the fears parents have about their child's safety and how many of those fears are unfounded. She also discusses what we might be denying our children by letting those fears take over, compromising their creativity, their independence, their ability to solve problems, take risks, and overcome obstacles.

In all my years as a parent, I have never come upon children who are so inwardly focused, so in tune with each other, so utterly absorbed by the world they've created, and I think that's because in all my years as a parent, I've mostly met children who take it for granted that they are always being watched

Now that I'm not only creating play experience at work and in my writing but with my own little one, I'm thinking about 'play' even more seriously (and I recognize the irony of that statement, of these words in general.) As life goes on, I don't know how my play philosophy will change but, as of right now, it stays the same. I hope to find play environments for Little O that allow for the unstructured and unsupervised play I had as a child.

I still recall playing a game of War that would make many parents of today cringe. It lasted for weeks. There were swingset prisoners, buckets of freezing cold water, and real fear as my little legs ran from the enemy. It was cruel and strange and all consuming but, to this day, I remember, with pride, the rules of our war. I remember that we made them. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Words From A Work In Progress

Oh my gosh, I nearly forgot I had a blog.

I remember when I used to have semi-decent content here (humor me, please.) I apologize for the lack of things. I really do.

The days are full and, when I do have time, I use the minutes to write. I'm revising a book I've been with for years. I'm dreaming of another book that's always been there, thumping its way into my heart.

I do read all of your blogs and endlessly scroll facebook and twitter posts while nursing (and I do nurse for many hours in a day) but I don't always reach out, fumbling as I do to type on a tablet or mobile device. I don't know, something has changed for me in the virtual space. I'm paying attention. I'm engaged. I'm just less certain of my place within it. I have a habit of retreating to the sidelines in many facets of life. And, so, I find myself there, here.

While I work through that (ha), I wanted to post some words from a work in progress (the book I'm dreaming, not the one I'm revising.) There's freedom in putting work out there, no matter how imperfect. Sometimes it's best to let go. Thanks for letting me do just that.

My knees crush the ground. Pebbles pinch the skin. I kneel at the stump of the abandoned oak and try to see Adare there. The bark is like the cloak of her rusty hair and the rings are dreams within dreams. All the years I have tried to know her collide towards now and against the smooth cut, the crass slice of wood, stunted roots still extending invisibly into the dirt, I can imagine her mind’s eye. 

This is her portrait. Not the kind Mrs. Paulson wanted me to paint, on a smooth white canvas, perfect rainbow pearls dotting the palate, dipping my brush into colors I can not match to this life. It’s the angle of things I want to capture. The dimensions. The spaces we occupy, etched into the world as we are, growing out of the earth, in spite of ourselves. I want to sculpt it out of the silence and grace of a tree.