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Loving this quotation from author Tracy Winfield Holczer: “…a book is the answer to a question you want answered, not a question you already have the answer to. And in my mad scrabble to come up with this story, I believe I’ve been leaning heavily on what I think I know instead of throwing my whole self into the unknown.”

Craving big blocks of time to write. This week has offered two or three hours at a time and I’m really craving a nice four to six hour block of time to drop down into thinking and writing.

My article, “Not Another Critique Group” was published in the 2016 winter edition of the digital edition of the SCBWI Bulletin. (No link because it’s password protected, but I’ll do my best to get a copy posted.)

Enjoying a new practice: cranking up the music and dancing with my kids in the kitchen each day.

Reading COLLECTED STORIES by Willa Cather and a whole lot of books about smallpox whose titles I’m not going to share.

Making a big push on my picture-book biography. It is front and center on my plate, though sometimes that means ignoring it and letting my subconscious mind doing it’s thing (or at least I hope!)

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The Hubbs Children’s Literature Conference is fast-approaching. You going?

This article, CREATIVE COURAGE FOR YOUNG HEARTS: 15 EMBOLDENING PICTURE BOOKS CELEBRATING THE LIVES OF GREAT ARTISTS, WRITERS, AND SCIENTISTS from Brainpickings.org is worth the read if you are at all interested in picture-book biographies.

Reading SCENE AND STRUCTURE by Jack Bickham and COLLECTED STORIES by Willa Cather

Fargo! Took a day trip to see the Plains Art Museum, visit the Hjemkomst Center, eat a delicious lunch at The Blue Goose Cafe. The best part of the trip was spotting a barred owl atop a tall tree, scanning the snow-covered fields for prey. Just. Wow!

Got four hours of uninterrupted writing and thinking at the beautiful Leech Lake Tribal College Library.

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How have I not heard of this publisher? Enchanted Lion Books

Reading HARRY POTTER & THE SORCERER’S STONE (aloud, for the first time) by J. K. Rowling and SCENE & STRUCTURE by Jack M. Bickham

I am a person whose head is filled – overflowing actually – with ideas, ideas, ideas. This is a lovely thing except for when it’s not, i.e. when too-many ideas distract me from my mission. This week, I titled a sheet of paper, “Great Ideas I Won’t Pursue” and I listed all of my lovely ideas that I can’t/won’t pursue because we only get one life and I need to keep on my path instead of constantly running down rabbit holes. This list is a great way to clear the debris and demolish the obstacles that get in my way from pursuing my path whole-heartedly. It’s such a simple practice, this list-making of things I won’t pursue, but it’s immensely freeing. Try it for yourself?

Registration for the 2016 Iowa Summer Writing Festival has opened.

This quote: “The only way to make good art is to say what it means to be yourself.” (from John Baldessari

I can’t remember how I made it through life without writing in books; demolishing their pages with underlining and marginalia. (Need to think more about this.)

Sent this text to my friend: “Pretty sure that all my desperate attempts to storyboard and figure out the structure of my novel are a result of me being really uncomfortable with Not Knowing. So. I’m just going to try and sort of be OK with being uncomfortable. And just keep writing & wandering around in the dark of this story. That’s my discipline, practice right now. So I’m making vegetable soup instead of making crazy with my writing. Thanks…for everything.”

Completed a writing marathon on Monday with a friend. Wrote from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. with brief breaks for meals and an hour of XC skiing in the afternoon. I was afraid I would run out of steam midway through all the writing, but I didn’t. I got so much done just by the mere fact of having uninterrupted time to think and work and let my mind wander. It was amazing & invigorating. (P.S. I was exhausted the next day.)

 

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Reading CARTWHEELING IN THUNDERSTORMS by Katherine Rundell, THE THING ABOUT JELLYFISH by Ali Benjamin and THE CATCHER IN THE RYE by J.D. SALINGER

I’ve read CATCHER IN THE RYE too many times to count, though it’s been years since the last time I sank into its pages. You guys, reading it again, felt like coming home. That book will always feel like home. I have such gratitude for literature.

I road tripped to Ely, Minnesota. I love that place. There were treasures around every corner: the beautiful conversation with the man at the coffee shop, the kind ladies at the Brandenburg Gallery (not to mention the stellar, soul-stirring art), the wolves (the wolves!) who frolicked in view at the International Wolf Center the entire time we were there. Piragis; with a great upstairs bookstore with hardcovers 20% off! (I purchased OVER AND UNDER THE SNOW by Kate Messner and THE DOG THAT NINO DIDN’T HAVE by Edward van de Vendel) Oh, and Wintergreen.

The American Library Association announced its award winners this week. The list is worth studying, and then reading.

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You guys, I wrote another column, MAKE YOUR OWN HEAT. This time, I write about how to love winter a little more, a little better. I like this one. I’ve struggled with winter for so many years, and this essay feels like a peace offering. I hope you enjoy it.

Sometimes, writing (which is how I share my heart and my ideas) feels like I’m running around with no pants on. It can leave me feeling vulnerable, exposed.

The daily handwritten poem project is coming along well. I still have to put it on my to-do list, but I had a small breakthrough regarding this practice: I can copy the same poem for as many days in a row as I want. There is no Poetry Police. This is MY practice. So, if a poem is really speaking to me, I’m going to stick with it. I’m all about copying THE JOURNEY by Mary Oliver and MANIFESTO: THE MAD FARMER LIBERATION FRONT by Wendell Berry. And I’m not searching, searching, searching for poems; they are coming to me. Also, if a poem is really lengthy, I am allowed to take a few days to copy it. Because I said so.

This quote: “You either suffer the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. Pick a side.” Yessss! This is  me right now.

I’m committed to capital-Q Quality. Which means I’m saying no to opportunities so that I can be a good person, not just a “successful” (read: frenetically busy) writer. I’m counting on the quantity adding up on its own.

Have I mentioned how much I love writing? I do. I love writing. I love the ride. Grateful to have a column and readers who respond to and like my words. There are so many things to read in the world, I’m honored when someone chooses my words. Thank you.

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Happy Sweet ’16!

I took a creative faceplant earlier this week after receiving smart, spot-on feedback about a manuscript I’ve been working on for more than two years. I have so much more work to do.  That isn’t such a bad thing, but it was difficult to hear when I thought that I was almost finished. Ah, well. Back to work.

Reading THUNDER & LIGHTNING by Lauren Redniss, MOOMIN: THE DELUXE ANNIVERSARY EDITION by Tove Jansson (I am new to the Moomins), MEDITATIONS by Marcus Aurelius.

Finished THE ART OF MEMOIR by Mary Karr (I will be reading this one again and again), and THE ALCHEMIST by Paulo Coehlo (fantastic!).

Listening to the song BEST DAY OF MY LIFE by the American Authors after watching an IMAX movie about humpback whales that had whales breaching, rising, flipping, swimming to that song. I listen to it when I bike and run and I feel as free and happy as a humpback, swimming in the cold waters off the coast of Alaska.

Continuing with my practice of hand copying a poem each day. I have to remind myself to do it. It hasn’t become automatic yet. But I think it’s a practice worth fighting for.

Being human; sometimes it’s hard.

Turned in another essay and working on two more. I am loving writing these essays. It feels like breathing.

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Merry Christmas!

I was reminded of something important this week: I must be mindful of whom I ask for feedback on my writing, particularly when I’m trying out an idea in a rough draft

Reading: MEDITATIONS by Marcus Aurelius (translated by Gregory Hays), THE LIARS’ CLUB by Mary Karr and THE ART OF MEMOIR by Mary Karr

Polishing my next column and really enjoying the almost-daily honing

Finalizing my 2016 writing goals

Compiling my 2016 reading lists for both craft books and YA novels; trying to be intentional with my reading (hmmm…maybe I’ll share that list here)

Trying a new practice of copying a poem by hand daily, before my regular prose writing, to let those words get under my skin and to slow myself down a bit – so far, so good; I like this practice

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My first column, FROM BEMIDJI, WITH LOVE, for the Bemidji Pioneer newspaper was published this week. Take a read!

I’m reflecting on the role of social media in sharing my work. I got some kind feedback on my first column, but pushing the “post” button on FB was REALLY hard because it felt completely arrogant and also there was the fear that perhaps I am completely delusional and the column I wrote and am now sharing is utter trash, completely stupid and a waste of time. Sigh.

I’ve been gathering my thoughts and myself for the next column; definitely have winter and cold on the brain.

Reading STORM by Donna Jo Napoli and THIS ONE SUMMER by Jillian & Mariko Tamaki.

Considering attending the Hubbs Children’s Literature Conference.

I’m working on my 2016 Writing Goals. But, trying to keep it a bit more mellow than capital G, Goals. It’s more like, I’m thinking about stuff I want to do this year as a writer. (This is more fun than I thought it would be. Turns out, I have some pretty wild dreams & ideas I want to pursue.)

Putting together a pitch for an article I want to write. Taking my time with this one. Planning, letting my mind wander, doodling ideas.

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Only when I’m mountain biking or trail running can I imagine the boldest, bravest, truest version of myself. It’s  as if someone is pulling back a heavy, red, velvet curtain to give me a glimpse of my future self. These sightings fill me with hope.

I’m paying reeeeeally close attention and doing close reading, to determine how characters change their minds in a novel. I am learning so much.

I’m cutting and cutting and cutting words from my latest picture book manuscript. It’s thrilling to watch the words fall and have a stronger, not weaker, story for it.

Reading BIG MAGIC by Elizabeth Gilbert, TERRIBLE TYPHOID MARY by Susan Campbell Bartoletti, THE LIAR’S CLUB: A MEMOIR by Mary Karr and DON’T LET’S GO TO THE DOGS TONIGHT by Alexandra Fuller

Filling the well this week with visits to: The Minneapolis Institute of Art to see the Delacroix exhibit, REI for shopping!, The Loft Literary Center, Wild Rumpus, Magers & Quinn, the Children’s Theatre Company to watch THE JUNGLE BOOK, watch an Omni movie about humpback whales at the Science Museum of Minnesota.

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Sometimes, OK most of the time, when I’m out mountain biking or trail running, it feels as if I’m simply out collecting ideas and connections that have been left along my route for me. I just have to gather them and bring them home.

Also, when I’m out biking and running, I often sing along, aloud, to the music I’m listening to.

Y’all homemade chai tea is delicious.

Brandi Carlile is a genius. Listen to “Save Part of Yourself for Me” for evidence.

I’m reading “Carry On” by Rainbow Rowell, “The Game of Love and Death” by Martha Brockenbrough and “Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert.

This quote is wandering around in my mind:

“Sell your expertise and you have a limited repertoire. Sell your ignorance and you have an unlimited repertoire. He was selling his ignorance and his desire to learn about a subject. The journey of not knowing to knowing was his work.”    

Richard Saul Wurman speaking about Charles Eames

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