So excited to have Midnight Madness featured in Modern Reston Magazine! To read the full article, click here:
I'm so honored that Rants from Mommyland featured Midnight Madness at the Zoo. Thank you, Lydia!
I'm teaming up with Jackie from Neat, Sweet, & Hard to Beat for the Books and Brackets Book Blog Hop. To enter, click here:
This weekend I’m headed to the SCBWI Maryland-Delaware-West Virginia regional conference. The conference theme, On the Road to Sparkling Children's Literature, reminded me to reconnect with my inner GPS. Since my last post, I’ve been on quite the journey. I've traveled through a few valleys, but so too have I climbed a few peaks - the most exciting and unexpected of which is….I SOLD MY FIRST PICTURE BOOK – MIDNIGHT MADNESS AT THE ZOO!
Dates and numbers hold significant meaning to me. Even my children’s birthdays have symmetry and order – one by happenstance, the other by design. So although the contract was offered in March, I waited until my oldest son’s birthday to sign it.
Signing that contract on the day of my first born’s birth seemed cyclical. For it was only three years before, his brother not yet born, when we went to the zoo and he asked me the most simple yet puzzling of all questions: “What do all the animals do after everyone goes home?” He is now six, his little brother three – and the answer to the question is contained in the pages of a 32-page picture book.
After accepting that offer, I went through a range of emotions. I screamed. I cried. I celebrated. But then…I stalled. More time passed. Stuck.
I found myself locked in a car that was parked in neutral with its four-way flashers on – blink, blink…blink, blink…blink, blink. A year ago, I accelerated my writing – revising, redrafting, sending out query letters, receiving rejections, rewriting again, and sending out more query letters. And then it happened! I reached my destination. An offer. A contract. Published!
But it seemed my brain – its creative spark – would not ignite. There was no sputter, no grinding, no sound. It was simply…just gone. I didn't write…for months. The keyboard called out, but I didn’t listen; I wouldn’t hear. Was this my future? I sign one contract, and I flame out?
Then something happened, much like that peak I traveled only a few short months before. I had surpassed that summit. I was on the descent…travelling down…low…lower. A valley was on the horizon. And that flame I thought had been extinguished…I thought had gone out? It hadn’t. It had faded – now a dull blue, almost violet really. But at its center, the heat was still there. It just needed to be stoked. And when I hit that valley, I had two choices: brake until I came to a stop, or accelerate for another climb.
So this is me. Starting over. My next manuscript is complete – written in a fury to be sure. But I believe it’s my best story yet. And like me, it’s ready to go back out into the world. It’s ready for its own journey. The difference now is I won’t be looking in the rear view mirror. Instead, I’ll be looking at that open road, watching for the next crest to rise.
My egg-shaped chair has met with the most inglorious of all catastrophes. No amount of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Band-Aids or Elmo ice packs can set it right; not even my-swear-it-can-fix-anything duct tape will piece Humpty back together again.
So how did such an aberration occur? After all, my kids know that my writing nook (fine – the far east corner of my bedroom) is off limits. But that’s the funny thing about boundaries. We are pre-programmed to test them. How else would we ever evolve? And it took less than five minutes for my two minions to chair-jack my beloved, turquoise throne.
While I was putting their laundry away, the five-year-old convinced the two-year-old to climb onto the chair. Then, he spun his little brother around…and around…and around some more. By the time I walked in, the youngest was sliding off the chair, stumbling to regain his balance.
Unaware of their real-life, Sit-N-Spin adventure, I searched frantically for an unfinished glass of fermented spirits. Did my youngest get a hold of mommy’s special grape juice? That’s when my youngest walked over to the chair, pointed to his older brother, and declared, “Your turn!” Then he promptly up chucked all over my chair. All. Over. It!
I hugged my son, tears streaming down his face, his chin tucked into his chest. Since he did not require a change of clothes, I asked him and his brother to go and play quietly in their rooms and to make sure they closed the door behind them.
Then, I attended to my sullied, soiled chair. First in the line up? Baby wipes. Next? A Tide Pen. Last? Spot Shot. St-rike three - game over. While I was able to remove most of the stain, a trace outline remains, visible to the discerning eye – my hazel ones in particular. I walked to my bedroom door, turned the lock, and then threw myself on the bed in an all-out tantrum rivaling any my own kids have pitched. And I mourned…my loss…my once perfect chair.
There are not many things in my house that have survived my children or their chunks. I’m still in awe each time I pick up a home decorating magazine and see an interior designer/fashion stylist mom with her two and four year-olds sitting in an all-white living room with nary a toy in sight, pops of yellow and green flowers arranged in a Tiffany vase, teetering on a stack of books with spines reading Bauhaus and Eames, not Seuss or Silverstein.
So how do I toddle back from the brink? One way, I suppose, is to see this as a sign - that writing right now is not for me. Raising kids is the most exhausting and demanding job I have ever taken on. The responsibilities. The expectations. They’re endless.
Pursuing anything else at this stage is impractical, if not just plain silly. Of course, just as my children like to test boundaries, so too do I. But when it comes to writing on the job, I am only met with constant interruptions and mounting frustrations. The start and stop: “Mommy, may I have some juice?” The push and pull: “Mommy said I could have it first and then it’s your turn.” The back and forth: “OWWWWWWW! Mom-meee!!!!”
These days, my priorities are just the basics: food (meals that come in a can, box, or bag), clothing (laundry, which I’m convinced spawns in the dark confines of the hamper because how else can you explain a five year old having so many dirty clothes), shelter (specifically making sure ours is not condemned). Personal safety is also a big part of my life – in particular, making sure no one gets injured (seriously), maimed (permanently), or killed. Pretending I can do anything else is akin to Sisyphus himself. So do I chuck out the up chucked chair?
Or, do I chuck it up to...that’s life. Really good stories are not the ones with perfect characters and uncomplicated plots, at least not the ones I’m interested in reading or writing. And really good writers are rarely those whose first draft is also their last. We’re all human beings (although living in the parent realm for the last five years, I’m convinced I’m half zombie). We’re flawed. We’re messy. And that’s what makes us interesting.
Whether you invoke Anne Lamott’s term for first drafts, which I won’t mention here, but check out Bird by Bird if you’re curious, or your fourth grade language arts’ teacher’s sloppy copy, there’s always room for revision. And that pretty much describes me and my fledgling writing life – a work in progress.
For better or worse, and I do hope the scale tips more toward the former, motherhood has informed and influenced my writing voice. So as I Magic Erase the crayon off the sliding glass door, I rejoice. When I Febreeze my greige couch, I celebrate. And when I flop my hump into my chucked up chair, I cheer…because what’s wearisome to some is still worth writing for me.
Like many women, I wear a lot of hats: wife, mother, working professional, distance runner, and these days, aspiring writer. More often than not, people ask me, “How do you do it all? What’s your secret?”
And the answer? Wave a wand; sprinkle some unicorn dust; summon equal parts leprechaun to equal parts fairy (watch out for the trolls – because they’re just bad news); and then wait…wait for the rainbow to bridge on high. Then follow it: your pot of gold awaits.
You can imagine the stares I receive, which to me are as incredulous as the question that they asked. Because the answer of what it is lies in what it is not – a secret, a mystery, or…magic.
Given that I fall into the unpublished writing camp, my words of wisdom are few. What I can tell you is that the popular mantras we hear today – getting up from your chair, getting up off your couch – are, paradoxically, the things that keep me from writing. The challenge that I struggle with every day is not getting my butt out of the chair; it’s getting it in it.
And knowing that, I treated myself three months ago to a ridiculously overpriced, not-in-my-demographic desk chair (I purchased it from Pottery Barn Teen – shhhhh, don’t tell). I loved the modern shape and the unexpected pop of color in my sandy clay, tortilla – okay, beige - home. Just seeing it in the catalog made me excited, so I figured that enthusiasm would translate off the page when I put it in my writing nook (or more precisely, the far east corner of my bedroom).
For the most part, it has. I covet thy chair. When I walk into my bedroom and see it in the corner, I get a twitchy feeling. I’m eager to sit, open up my lap top, and write. And once I’m seated, I stay seated. More importantly? I stay writing. Upgrading my chair, from a-bargain-basement-discount-store, a-lot-of-assembly-was-required, it’s-not-real-wood, this-will-look-good-in-my-first-studio-apartment ladder back has been transformative! My life has changed dramatically since the just me or just me plus one era, and so too have my plans. Why not have a chair that honors that growth and inspires me to be creative?
Sure there’s some discipline required, and some days, a little luck to write consistently. But for me, the beginning of the creative process starts exactly where it ends, my rear end. And since many people have been asking me of late, “How do you do it? What’s your secret?” I have given them an answer, one I pulled straight out of my…well, you know where. Having a roomy, comfortable, fun, bright chair makes the process that is writing a little easier to bear.
I’m a children's book writer whose dream to publish a picture book is now reality. What to do now? Keep dreaming of course. Come join me as I try to keep my head above water as I write my writing life.