“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you. Because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”
I am not supposed to write about this. I am supposed to appear cool, calm, collected. Professional. At ease. In command.
But, the reality is that I am none of those things. I’d like to just plug my ears and sing, “tra-la-la, tra-la-la” until this hard part passes but I know (I Know.) this doesn’t help.
I am stuck.
I finished the first (rough) draft of my picture book biography in early February in a fever of effort. Time has passed. I’ve received feedback from a few trusted readers. I’ve thought about the story. And I know that my manuscript falls short of my aspirations. I can name three ways in which it is lacking. (And I’m not talking about simple grammar or spelling errors.) I’m talking about the more elusive qualities of tone, form, energy.
I have questions. How do I manifest tone in words? How do I change the energy of a manuscript? How do I learn about those things? Do I take a class? Which one? Do I read even more picture book biographies that I admire and try to glean lessons from them? Do I pay an experienced author to read my manuscript and give me feedback? Do I just stop writing? Take a break? If so, for how long? Do I apply for an MFA program? Do I find a critique group? Do I scrap this story and start anew? Perhaps I’ve chosen the wrong form for this subject? Maybe I should try harder? Is there such thing as trying too hard?
I just don’t know what to do.
What I do know is that no one is going to make this OK for me. I have to write this book. I have to struggle through it. I have to choose every single word.
So, for now, I wait.
I’m finishing a scrapbook, working on a quilt, trying some new recipes, searching for a house. I’m using different parts of my brain. I’m letting the manuscript and my brain catch their breath.
And then on March 4 I’ll pick up my manuscript and try again.
Mem Fox is brilliant and she kindly shares some of her brilliance
Seth Godin, “But what if I fail?”
Kerlan Collection of Children’s Literature
Kate DiCamillo to Be Ambassador of Young People’s Literature
Albert Einstein for kids
Cynthia Rylant interview
reading Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool, A History of the American People by Paul Johnson (this tome will take me a while), The Trumpeter of Krakow by Eric P. Kelly, Leadership Education by Oliver and Rachel DeMille, The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis
“All this was very well for Harsanyi; an interesting variation in the routine of teaching. But for Thea Kronborg, that winter was almost beyond enduring. She always remembered it as the happiest and wildest and saddest of her life. Things came too fast for her; she had not had enough preparation. There were times when she came home from her lesson and lay up on her bed hating Wunsch and her family, hating a world that had let her grow up so ignorant; when she wished that she could die then and there, and be born over and begin anew. She said something of this kind once to her teacher, in the midst of a bitter struggle. Harsanyi turned the light of his wonderful eye upon her – poor fellow, he had but one, though that was set in such a handsome head – and said slowly: ‘Every artist makes himself born. It is very much harder than the other time, and longer. Your mother did not bring anything into the world to play piano. That you must bring into the world yourself.’” - from The Song of the Lark
Because of they way they sound or the feelings they conjur or the way they roll off my tongue:
clever, otter, honey, glory, Orion, north, avocado, algae, tipi, anemone, russet, tidal, chug, balsamic, pumpkin, pomegranate, shiver, gem, binoculars, lepidoptera, porcupine, edna, fig, buckwheat, jackdaw, saguaro, lupine, apple, flicka, scout, blossom, canyon, spoon, lantern, arrow, story, ferns, haversack, midnight, chinook, moss, canvas, flense, traddles, jaoquin, palomino, grizzly, gallery, thicket, brambles, nest, canoe, anorak, lupine, keen, sparrow, parka, archer, kestrel, poplar, speckle, canteen, water, watershed, breath, create, animals, wren, briars, satchel, hammock, thistle, star, haven, buffalo, lichen, scribble, ah-goo, goobers, mishmash, awesome, garbanzo, cranberry, solstice, moon, banjo, prairie, magnify, maple, sapling, alpine, nocturnal, osprey, tumbleweed, indigo, wow, boysenberry, appaloosa, step stool, pemmican, milkweed, thimble, acorn, opaque, bronco, sky, quiver, quill, quake, sleek, shadow, hosta, rhubarb, map, rucksack, lake, tiger, almond, moss, five, applesauce, bonfire, windigo, mountain, wildflower, eight, bungalow, rivet, dapple, tidepool, grove, joggle, elm, daisy, crisp, porridge, flax, spelt, teal, thumbprint, tableau, notebook, mend, cabin, true, hum, owl, dune, skiff, cove, cobble, barnacle, heron, mull, forelock, rollick, wave, thatch, rhizome, cottage, knot, fjord, wonder, bog, kelp, wend, warble, marigold, geranium, pelican, professor, lichen, dandelion, galaxy, amen, echo, nautical, gold, lanyard, sunshine, firewood, gather, fountain, glitter, rainbow, wool, dew, pinto, shale, sea fog, lavender, quiet, feather, stillness, tiptoe, snowflake, jonquil, dawn, fleece, bluestem, sunbonnet, rocket, banner, ocean, nicker, hemlock, atlas, lodge, shelter, tower, fort, flense, artichoke, grid, paddock, wanderlust, twilight, book, coccoon, idea, tent, picnic, island, field, timber, rosin, treehouse, eskimo, apple luscious, pinto, shale, salmon, kombu, flannel, sundance, sur, cider, wharf, dusk, stew, slate, bread, sockeye, hawk, raptor, bucket, topaz, gloaming, hummock, oakleaf, bristlecone pine, glint, knit, glow, oleander, tamarack, violet, lilac, ponderosa, cedar, squaw, dosh, idiotic, twig, pistachio, baby, mush, belly, mushy…
I love reading about the rituals and working habits of creative people. I just finished flipping through Mason Currey’s “Daily Rituals: How Artists Work” and noticed these recurring habits of creative:
- daily, habitual, disciplined creating (writing)
- regular naps
- a simple life centered around creating (writing)
a great post from Sarah Dessen about when it really is OK, even good, to abandon a writing project
a NYT article worth reading, Slaves of the Internet, Unite!
oh, and let’s go here together: The Story Museum
a book to check out: Children’s Book-A-Day Almanac by Anita Silvey
reading Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey, A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold, Twelve Kinds of Ice by Ellen Bryan Obed, Wonder by R. J. Palacio, Papa Is a Poet by Natalie S. Bober, The Nick Adams Stories by Ernest Hemingway and The Song of the Lark by Willa Cather (I’ll write more about this one someday, because it just laid me flat with its awesomeness. Willa Cather, I salute you.)
which seems like a lot of almanacs (if one is a lot, two is then a staggering amount) which makes me wonder about the true deifinition of almanac: an annual publication containing a calendar for the coming year, important dates, and the times of such phenomena as sunrises, phases of the moon, and tides) so I thought I’d share it with you
As my family drove from Arizona to Minnesota earlier this month, I picked up local papers whenever and wherever I could. Disappointingly, most of the hotels we stayed in only offered up USA Today which is a newspaper that seems like a celebrity tabloid and offers very little news and seems oh-so-generic.
We stayed in Miles City, Montana one night and I found a copy of The Billings Gazette at breakfast. There was one story in there that I read, tore out and then read aloud to my family as we drove through the arctic temperatures. (It was -31 degrees that morning. For real.) And I want to share it with you, too.
There is a lot of really bad news to be shared each and every day. So much that my brain starts to fold in on itself when I reach a certain point of saturation. But, this story about wild ice, was a poem to me. It helped my mind unfold, breathe. I hope it helps your mind breathe better, too.
Sometimes I wonder if anybody, anywhere is reading books that matter.
Or if they are all just consuming the latest vampire/post-apocolyptic/shadesofgrey/celebrity-written piece of shit book. And I start to lose a little hope about…well, everything. I worry about people having the ability to think for themselves, the ability to have face-to-face conversations, the ability to have conversations about things that matter (like discovering and pursuing a vocation) and not just about what a great deal they got on their bling jeans. ( I just moved to a tiny town in Minnesota and was at a get-together yesterday and all the women – except for me – there had a conversation about their bling jeans. I sat in the corner having judgy thoughts which I realize is not so wonderful.) Anyway.
Over Thanksgiving, one of my favorite people whom I like to have conversations with and I struck up a conversation about books. We’ve read many of the same books. And honestly, it felt so great to have somebody to talk to about books and ideas (and not bling jeans) that I almost hugged this man. Also, he told me some more titles of books to read and that was so nice. I am usually the one recommending books, handing out reading lists. It felt great for somebody to do that for me AND for the books to be relevant and meaningful to the kinds of questions I’m asking instead of a reflection of the NYT Bestseller list. (I can find that for myself.)
So here’s an excerpt of our conversation and a not-so-sly way of telling you to go read, “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek” by Annie Dillard and to please pay special attention to chapter two. If your library doesn’t have a copy you have two options:
1. move because you should not live in a town with a library that is Tinkerless
2. buy two copies: one for yourself and one for your local library. This second option is much less expensive and logical.
L: Have you read anything by Annie Dillard?
K: Oh yeah, “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek” is brilliant. But all you really need to read is chapter two.
L: Yes! (throwing his head back)
K: on seeing…
L: a meditation on paying attention to the riches around us
K: I read it at least once a year.
L: It’s great.