Inspiration from Songs, Chants, and Slogans

The launch of Cynthia Levinson’s THE YOUNGEST MARCHER, a picture book about the youngest civil rights marcher in Birmingham, Alabama, continues today! As Cynthia described on Tuesday, the strength in nine year-old Audrey Faye Hendricks’ voice was often boosted by music and protest chants. In that spirit, Emus gathered together to discuss different songs, chants, and slogans we found memorable and inspirational in civil rights movements.

Darcey Rosenblatt says that “It Could Have Been Me” by Holly Near was a life-changing song for her when she first heard it, and that it still carries power with her today. Holly Near sang this at a memorial for the four students shot at Kent State University as they protested the bombing of Cambodia in May 1970.

Jason Gallaher says he will never forget the immediacy and the impact of the NOH8 campaign after Proposition 8 passed in California, banning same-sex marriage. Thousands of people came together to get their pictures taken in a silent protest against the proposition. Even though the protest was silent, the amount of photos of people with NOH8 painted across their faces created a sort of hum in the air, moving more and more to speak out in favor of same-sex marriage. While same-sex marriage is legal today, the campaign still serves as a stand against any kind of discrimination.

Hayley Barrett says she thinks it’s hard to top the emotional impact of the Memphis Sanitation Strike in 1968. The strikers carried signs with the words “I AM A MAN” on them, fighting against dangerous working conditions and discrimination. You can find more information about the strike at the National Civil Rights Museum website. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., gave his last speech, “Mountaintop,” to Memphis sanitation workers the night before he died.

Anna Crowley Redding says that Langston Hughes’ “I, Too” has stuck with her over the years. In addition, she read his “Christ in Alabama” in the seventh grade in Spartanburg, SC, and remembers thinking, “This is the best thing I have ever read. EVER.”

Sarvinder Naberhaus says that “Keep Your Hand on the Plow” is one song she found memorable in the Civil Rights Movement.

This article by Cynthia provides more information about the history of songs in the Civil Rights Movement.

Cynthia’s THE YOUNGEST MARCHER is out now and can be found at IndieBound, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, or your favorite local bookseller.

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Filed under Activism, Book Launch, civil rights, Uncategorized

Family Recipes

This week we’re celebrating the launch of Cynthia Levinson’s debut picture book, The Youngest Marcher, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton.

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In 1963 in the city of Birmingham Alabama, when Audrey Faye Hendricks was in elementary school, she was inspired by dinner guests Dr. Martin Luther King, Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth, and Reverend James Bevel. She didn’t think it was right that she couldn’t sit at the counter to eat ice cream, sit at the front of the bus, or ride the nice elevator at the department store with the white folks. So when the idea came to have a Children’s March and fill the jail with children to protest the inequity, Audrey volunteered. She was the youngest marcher and was in jail for a long seven days, which led to Birmingham rescinding its segregation ordinances. This is a powerful story about how one young girl made a difference by standing up for what she believed in.

One of the first things Audrey ate when she was released from jail was her mother’s Hot Rolls Baptized in Butter, a favorite. When Audrey and her sister grew up, they didn’t have a recipe but they experimented until they came up with something that tasted just like their mother’s rolls. The recipe is included in the book.

Today, authors share some of their favorite recipes that are associated with good memories and family.

Jason Gallaher: Here’s a recipe I absolutely love that has been passed through all the members of my family forever and ever. It’s beef stroganoff, so it’s nothing monumental or insanely unique, but all the family meals I’ve had with this make it so my heart soars whenever I know we are having it for dinner!

Beef Stroganoff

1 lb. ground beef
1 medium to large onion, chopped
1 – 10 1/2 ounce can of cream of mushroom soup
1 cup sour cream
Sliced mushrooms
2 tbsps ketchup
3-4 squirts of soy sauce
Dash of garlic
Brown the meat, onion, and mushrooms. Add remaining ingredients and heat through. Don’t boil. Serve over your favorite noodle or rice.
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Heather Bouwman: We have a super-easy recipe for “Green Eggs and (vegetarian) Ham” that was a go-to dish when my kids were little (and still something they ask for today). I created it by tweaking a quiche recipe into something much simpler…and then gave it a name that I thought would make the kids want to eat it.
Green Eggs and Ham
5 – 6 eggs
roll of refrigerated crescent rolls (Pillsbury or other)
about 3 cups of fresh or frozen broccoli florets (thawed)
maybe a tablespoon of dijon mustard
feta cheese–about 1/2 cup
Baco’s or other vegetarian bacon
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Set oven to 350º
Steam the broccoli until it is very soft.
Butter the bottom of a 9×13 pan. Spread the crescent rolls out in the pan to make a crust. Brush generously with dijon mustard and sprinkle with feta. Set aside.
In a blender or with a hand blender, blend the soft broccoli with a little bit of egg until pureed. Small chunks are fine. Add the rest of the eggs and blend until frothy. Add a little pepper if desired and mix in.
Pour egg mixture slowly over feta. Sprinkle bacos on top. Cook about 20 minutes, until egg is set. (Dish will not rise–it’ll be more like tart height than quiche height.)
Read Green Eggs and Ham while eating.
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 Elly Swartz: My favorite family recipe is my mom’s chicken soup.  Made with a whole chicken, carrots, celery, onion, cooked slow for 5 hours and served with so much love.  My mom made this soup for Passover, and every time anyone in my family had a fever, a cough, a runny nose. She passed away over 20 years ago, but each time my kitchen fills with the smell of chicken soup, I think of her and am so grateful for all the love she ladled.
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Debbi Michiko Florence: The one thing that always reminds me of home and family is inari sushi, or as we affectionally used to call it, footballs. Mom always served these at family potlucks and holiday celebrations. I tried to make them a few years ago for New Year’s, and they were good, but not as good as the ones my mom made. A lot probably had to do with the fact that Mom made them for us.
Very Easy Inari
2 cups of cooked sushi rice
1 can of inari age or fried bean curd (found in Asian markets)
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Open can and carefully remove the fried bean curd. Open inari and scoop a small ball of  slightly cooled cooked rice into the pocket. Repeat until you use up all the fried bean curds. Serve and enjoy!
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What are your favorite recipes that remind you of home/family? We’d love to hear about them!

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Filed under Book Launch, Launch, Picture books

From 176 pages to 32 in Five Years Flat

EMU’s Debuts is mostly about The Call for that first sale. After 18 months of trying to sell a proposal for a middle-grade nonfiction book about civil rights in Birmingham, Erin finally called me with double-good news: two offers! But, one was for the middle-grade and the other for a picture book. What did I want to do? My instincts told me this story needed multiple perspectives, and I opted for a book for ten- to fourteen-year-olds. That decision led to We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March.

The idea for a picture book, though, never went away. But, how could I reduce a 176-page volume about four children who protested segregation, a vicious police chief who aimed fire hoses and snarling dogs at them and 3000 others and then sent them to jail down to a 32-page illustrated book for six- to ten-year-olds? What could I leave out? What could I leave in?

One of those four children was only nine years old. With a protagonist the same age as my readership, Audrey Faye Hendricks instantly became the “main character.” So, her experiences drove the story. She didn’t know that Martin Luther King spent time in solitary. She knew him as her parents’ friend Mike, who came for dinner and wolfed down her momma’s Hot Rolls Baptized in Butter. So, the famous Letter from Birmingham Jail got chucked, and the rolls stayed.

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This also meant that Audrey’s voice had to narrate. She and her momma “coo-ooked!” At church meetings, she “sang and swayed…her voice spirited and spiritual.” Marching to protest, she knew she was going “to j-a-a-il!”

And, as you can see, just about everything had to come in the traditional picture-book threes. “Front-row seats, cool water, elevators with white-gloved operators—laws said those were for white folks.”

But, can you send a nine-year-old to jail in a picture book? Yes. Because Audrey was actually was sentenced to jail—for a whole week. She was even threatened with solitary.

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Yet, kids instinctively know that nine-year-olds triumph. And that’s what really makes this a book for them.

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Encouraging Early Activists

the-youngest-marcherIt is Martin Luther King’s birthday. It seems particularly important to pay attention this year to Dr. King’s life and the dreams he fought and died for. I have traditions for this day – reading the I Have a Dream Speech – listening to Shed a Little Light at least once and this year I will start a new tradition. It will include a yearly reading of Cynthia Levinson’s THE YOUNGEST MARCHER – The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist. It’s so fitting that Cynthia’s story, beautifully illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton would be launched this week as Audrey Faye Hendricks was the youngest known child to be arrested for a civil rights protest. This book seems a wonderful follow-up to Cynthia’s book WE’VE GOT A JOB which tells the story of the 4,000 black elementary-, middle-, and high school students who voluntarily went to jail in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963.

Thinking about Audrey got me thinking about other young activists. Many of us know the story of young Malala Yousafzai who was living under Taliban rule in Pakistan, where young girls were at times forbidden to attend school. She started writing a blog under a pseudonym for the BBC at the age of 11, detailing what life was like and sharing her views on education for girls. Her passion and activism earned her several television and print interviews. Unfortunately, in 2012, a gunman boarded her school bus, asked for Malala by name and shot her in the head. Although in critical condition after the attack, Malala eventually stabilized enough to be sent to a hospital in England to recover in safety. She speaks about the rights of women and girls often and won Pakistan’s first National Youth Peace Prize. She has been nominated twice for the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize – the youngest person and only girl to ever be nominated.

Fewer have heard the story of Ryan Hreljac who in 1998, at six years old, learned that kids in Africa often had to walk several kilometers for clean water. This seemed wrong to Ryan. Using money he earned from household chores and funds he raised from speaking publicly at different events about Africa’s clean water issues, Ryan managed to fund the construction of his first well in a Northern Ugandan village in 1999. From there he established Ryan’s Well Foundation, an organization that has helped build thousands of water projects and latrines, bringing safe water and improved sanitation to close to a million people.

As 2017 dawns many of us are feeling the need to do more. As children’s writers we can make sure all children see themselves in the books they read and show them that they’re never too young to make a difference. Cynthia Levinson has raised this bar with THE YOUNGEST MARCHER. Join me in making this book part of your Marin Luther King Day celebration.

darceyhighres About Darcey Rosenblatt
Darcey Rosenblatt’s debut novel will be published by Henry Holt/MacMillan in August 2017. LOST BOYS, an historic fiction, tells the story of a 12-year old Iranian boy sent to fight in the Iran Iraq war in 1982. With her critique group she runs the Better Books Workshop – an annual small deep craft conference held in Northern California. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her fabulous husband and perfect daughter, some fish, and the best dog in the world. By day she is an environmental planner and when time permits she paints and costumes for a 5-8 year old theater.

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Filed under Activism, civil rights, Diversity, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Illustrators, Inspiration, Uncategorized

The Terrible Twos …Book 2, that is.

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What does it mean when a debut author talks about writing “Book 2”? Well, it certainly doesn’t mean that the author is writing their second story ever. In actuality, most people’s Book 2s are their fifth, tenth, or twentieth full novels. For me, it’s my thirteenth. I think. I have sort of lost track by this point.

When an author says they are working on Book 2, they usually mean they’re working on the next manuscript that they plan on publishing. In my case, I have a two book deal with my publisher, so my Book 2 fulfills this second novel of that deal.

It’s intimidating to write a Book 2! Struggling with Book 2 is something that seems to unite all debut authors, more than any other stress of the “new author” process.

It may be because it’s what we’re writing while in the middle of editing our debuts, or in the middle of learning how to do all the other things associated with debuting (*cough*marketing*cough*). It may be because it’s the first new words we have written since our ability as a writer was finally validated–and with first drafts always being terrible, we feel like fakes and failures just looking at our feeble attempts at a new story. It may be because we’re on faster timelines to produce material than we are used to being on. And it definitely may be because the pressure to perform is now on like it never had been before.

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Whatever the reason, Book 2 SUCKS. It SUCKS, man. S.U.C.K.S.

The good news is that most of this is in our minds. The better news is, it doesn’t always suck.

I just finished my first truly solid draft of my Book 2. And guess what? I like it.

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I spent months crafting it, hating almost every second. But now that I’ve shaped it into something resembling a proper novel? It’s not so bad. It’s actually pretty good. Well, I think it is. (I’m sure my opinion will change in a week or two, so I’m soaking in these positive feelings while I can!)

The point of this post is to give hope to debut authors who are in the throes of drafting that dreaded Book 2. First, you are not alone. Second, you are doing a good job. Really. Your Book 2 is wonderful, even if you can’t see that for yourself just yet.

You got this! We got this! Go, go, go!


Katie Headshot.jpgKatie Slivensky’s debut novel (THE COUNTDOWN CONSPIRACY) tells the story of a 13 year-old robotics whiz who is thrilled to be chosen to train for an international mission to Mars, but soon finds herself and her fellow cadets in a situation far more dire and deadly than any of them could have imagined. Publication is set for Summer 2017 with HarperCollins Children’s.

Katie is a science educator at the Museum of Science in Boston, where she coordinates school visits, does live presentations, and runs the rooftop observatory program. She lives in a suburb of Boston with her two completely absurd cats, Galileo and Darwin, and is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette.

Visit Katie on Twitter (@paleopaws) or on her website, www.katieslivensky.com.

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Okay…What’s Next?

This is the big question that comes after the initial book deal. We’re eager to sign our contract, be introduced to our new editor, work on revisions and see our “baby” come to life. Bring it on, world! But the fact is, these things take time. Brace yourself: I’m still waiting to sign a contract for a deal that was made in September of 2015! So, what’s a writer to do while he or she is waiting for all the “book deal” magic to happen?

Start another story!

Many writers, myself included, work on multiple projects but occasionally I find myself in a moment where I’m between projects. It’s like that “moment between breaths” I experience doing yoga, where it feels like time stands still for just a moment. It’s then, in my writing, that I have to find some inspiration for a new story idea.

Where do you get your ideas? Every author is asked this question. Honestly, for me, some ideas strike as quick as lightning while others are as slow in coming as molasses on a December day. I’ve always believed that the best ideas for me to pursue are those that come from the heart; stories about things I connect with. But sometimes my brain needs a “little” prompting. I thought it might be helpful to share some of the ways I get my imagination moving and finding potential story ideas that spark my mind.

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Recycle an existing story or song: You’ve heard of “fractured fairy tales” haven’t you? This is where someone takes a fairy tale and puts a new twist on it. A contemporary example would be Tara Lazar’s Little Red Gliding Hood. Or another favorite is Mo Willems’s Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs. Perhaps you could impose a clever twist on a favorite childhood fairy tale or song?

 

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Seek visual inspiration: Google “Interesting Photographs” and see what comes up. Does anything grab your attention and shake your writing brain to a heightened state of curiosity?

 

 readingstacksRead for inspiration: Pour over as many picture books as you can and see if you can find a “mentor text” that inspires you, so that you can use that story for inspiration and run with your own imagination.

 

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Pin the Tail on the Story Donkey: This is where you randomly select story elements (character/s, setting) and let your imagination run wild with possible conflicts. For example, close your eyes and randomly choose one thing from each column below to create your story premise:

MAIN CHARACTER SETTING SECONDARY CHARACTER
Dinosaur Classroom Cowboy
Monster Playground Fireman
Child Park Mailman
Unicorn Child’s bedroom Teacher
Cat Bathtub Ballerina
Dragon Mom’s office Race car driver
Puppy Pond Pirate
Gorilla Mountains Shark
Lizard Ocean Principal
Worm Cave Doctor
Parrot Circus Ghost
Squid Zoo Grandpa

 

Once you have a nugget of an idea, read these blog posts from author Tara Lazar’s Blog, where every she annually hosts PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month):

Kelly Bingham on developing an idea.

Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen on developing your character.

Diana Murray on creating a character-driven story with conflict.

Or better yet, sign up for Tara’s 2017 PiBoIdMo (in January!) where you have a fun challenge of thinking of one picture book story IDEA every day (that’s 31 ideas by the end of the month!!!).

Best of luck with creating your new story sparks!

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PierceHeadshotUCLA (2)About Terry Pierce…

Terry writes picture books, easy readers and board books and is whittling away at a middle-grade adventure novel. She lives in the California desert but avoids the summer heat by retreating to Mammoth Lakes every summer to hike, bike, write and dip her head in high mountain sky. She’s a Vermont College of Fine Arts graduate and teaches online children’s writing courses for UCLA Extension. She has two books coming out in spring 2017, My Busy Green Garden (Tilbury House) and Mama Loves You So (Little Simon).

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Filed under Inspiration, Time Management, waiting, Writing

We’re All Crazy Busy, So I Kept This Short.

394 words, to be precise. Here goes:

We are each pulled in a million different directions. Someone or something is always clamoring for our devotion, our time, our finite energy. How are we to balance our responsibilities, our commitments, and our creative needs? How are we to lay claim to the time and space required for writing?

There is only one hope and it’s not easy—core strength.

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Balance, after all, isn’t the product of stasis. It’s born of movement, moment-to-moment adjustments that maintain equilibrium. The muscles required for physical balance are deep within our bodies, particularly our core. They don’t get truly strong unless we make them strong.

It’s the same with our creative energies. The qualities—determination and commitment come to mind— essential to finding the balance between our busy lives and our creative work are found deep within. They are at our core, and they won’t get strong unless we make them strong.

How? You already know the answer. Practice.

When the world wants us to do literally anything other than write, we need to dig deeply into our core, to what we know matters. We need to assert that creative work is essential for ourselves and, incidentally, the continued progress of humanity. We are the purveyors of story, after all, the Pied Pipers of literacy. Our work is a source— a bubbling, life-giving spring—of connection and challenge, hope and healing. The more that we affirm creative work’s importance to ourselves and others, the stronger it will grow.

But don’t try to force balance, hanging on for dear life until you tip over and chip a tooth. It won’t work. It never works. We have to constantly find and re-find balance. Don’t fear the unexpected shifts. Expect to wobble and make necessary moment-to-moment adjustments.

Go to your creative work when you don’t feel like it. Especially when you don’t feel like it. Treat it like a treadmill, set yourself a laughably manageable goal, say 5 minutes of focused activity, and see what happens. You may find that 5 turns into 20. You may find that you begin to take this prioritized time seriously, and if you do, others will.

So deliberately engage. Choose the deep muscles of purpose and passion and use them with intention. If this is hard, good! You’re getting stronger.

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Enjoy the day,

Hayley


About Hayley Barrett

I write for young people and live to make kids laugh. My picture book BABYMOON celebrates the birth of a new family and is coming from Candlewick Press. WHAT MISS MITCHELL SAW, a narrative nonfiction picture book, is coming in spring 2019 from Simon & Schuster/Beach Lane Books and will be illustrated by Diana Sudyka. I’m represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of Erin Murphy Literary Agency.

 

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It Only Takes One (Not Really)

It only takes one. From the moment I began writing in earnest, this was the mantra I heard. It only takes one agent who loves your work, the reasoning went. Or, it only takes one editor who wants to buy your story. I heard it at conferences, in critique groups, and at almost every gathering of pre-published writers. I even repeated it, to myself and to others.

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As a mantra, it was supposed to instill hope, to inspire perseverance, to infuse me with faith. And it did. But as I look back at my journey to publication, I realize that the thing about this mantra is that it’s not completely true. To say that it only takes one person to turn a manuscript into a published book is to discount all those who helped me along the way. To even get my manuscript submission-ready took many people: critique partners, mentors, and conference faculty. After I began submitting the manuscript, the rejections I received were painful but necessary and helpful in their own ways. Aided by my agent, The Nian Monster was acquired by Albert Whitman, and then a whole team of people stepped in to breathe life into my book with beautiful illustrations and a physical form. All along the way, I relied on the support of my family and the encouragement of my friends. And I don’t want to forget the publicists, marketers, bloggers, and educators who created resources and are helping to get my book into the hands of readers. Every one of these people deserve credit. It doesn’t only take one; it takes a village to create a book.

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For those just starting out on the road to publication, find your community. Reach out to other writers, get involved in a critique group, go to conferences, start leaving comments on writing blogs, join another writer’s “village” and support their endeavors. Writing may be solitary, but making a book is not. And helping other writers doesn’t detract from your own publishing efforts — it enhances them.

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Having moved from Boston to Denver right before my book released, I fretted that I’d left my community behind just when I needed them most. But thanks to EMLA, I found friends waiting for me in my new hometown who welcomed me and made sure people actually attended my launch party. (Yay! And whew!) And thanks to social media, my book village goes with me wherever I am. I’ve been awed and gratified and slightly surprised by the people who have rallied around me and The Nian Monster. From old friends to brand-new friends to friends that I hadn’t been in touch with since 6th grade — thank you for being part of my village and for sharing the journey with me! I love my book, but the journey itself really has been the true reward.

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Giveaway Winner! Thank you to all who left comments during my book launch week. The lucky winner of a copy of The Nian Monster is Jen Petro Roy! Jen, please email your address to me at andreaATandreaywangDOTcom. Congrats!


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Andrea Wang’s debut picture book, The Nian Monster (Albert Whitman & Co., December 2016), is a Chinese New Year folktale retelling set in modern-day Shanghai. She has also written seven nonfiction books for the educational market and is working on a middle grade novel. Andrea is a former environmental consultant and now writes full-time. She recently moved from the Boston area to Denver, where she lives with her husband, two sons, and a dog that will do anything for food. That pretty much describes her family, too.

You can find Andrea online at http://www.andreaywang.com, on Twitter under @AndreaYWang, and on Instagram as @andreawhywang.

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Filed under Farewell, Uncategorized, Writing and Life

The Scariest Thing I’ve Ever Done

Before now I would have said the scariest thing I’ve ever done is…um…well, I guess I haven’t ever really done anything I would label scary. Maybe swim with sharks once? But they weren’t even scary sharks, they were nurse sharks that just loved to rub up against your leg like a cat and eat rotisserie chicken.

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And then I did NaNoWriMo. For those of you who don’t know, NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month, and the goal of the event is to write 50,000 words in one month. It takes place every November, that busy month of Thanksgiving and, this year, the release of Pokémon Sun & Moon and, oh yeah, the emotion-filled election. This is, by far, THE SCARIEST THING I’VE EVER DONE! For the whole month of November, that looming word count goal was staring me in the face like this:

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To make matters even more frightening, I was writing a Young Adult manuscript for the first time. I’m a picture book and middle grade dude. I can write about unicorns and kids battling trolls all day long, but love, angst, emotional firsts as you head into genuine adulthood? The only time I’ve written about love was in regards to a squirrel who discovers he loves candy, soooooooo.

But I decided I would face my fears, because doing so has paid off before. *Insert flashback noise and sepia filter* Back in 2012, I started an internship with a children’s literary agency. The awesome agent I was working for asked me to look at picture book manuscripts, and I just didn’t get them. How could you write an emotionally resonating story in under 500 words? And how was I supposed to tell what a good manuscript was without accompanying illustrations? PBs scared me to death!

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So I started taking picture book writing workshops in my spare time to figure them out. These workshops led to me writing picture book manuscripts of my own, and I fell head over heels for them. Cut to today, I’m now a bona fide children’s book writer, my first picture book coming out in July! *Insert flash forward music, there’s no more filter*

When November was rolling in this year, I said to myself, “Self! Time to face another fear,” and I dove into NaNoWriMo. First I had to figure out how I was going to tackle the word count on a day-by-day basis. To stay on track, you need to write 1,667 words a day, but I knew that I would be traveling for a week for Thanksgiving, so I tried to write more than that to add some wiggle room for the holidays. I made a nifty calendar in my office so my horrible failures (or successes!!) would stare me in the face.

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Then came the matter of an actual plot, which I guess is important. I plotted that whole sucker out at the end of October so I could write bullet point by bullet point in November. This helped me immensely. I pantsed my first middle grade manuscript a few years back, and all the drafts I had to do to go back in and get a storyline that made sense totally has converted me into a plotter. My little plot road map became such a trusty friend for those 30 days because for the first time ever, I wrote non-linearly. When I got stuck in one scene I could look at that map and say, “On to the next one!” That was crucial in meeting my word count goals, especially when writing in a genre that I don’t feel exceptionally comfortable in yet.

The other crucial element? Writing. I know that sounds really obvious, but what I mean by this is just write everywhere. Don’t limit yourself to one environment, write wherever and whenever something strikes you. I wrote in my office, I wrote little scenes on my phone notes app when something popped in my head and I was waiting for coffee, I wrote on the airplane when heading to see family. And it worked! This was the final word count on my little calendar:

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I made it! But here’s the weird thing about achieving this goal: At first, I did not feel excited about writing a first draft so quickly at all. I was like, “Well I faced that fear of doing NaNoWriMo, but now I have this draft that needs a ton of work, just faster than I would normally have a first draft.” Writing non-linearly helped me get the word count, but my transitions are a bit fuzzy in places. Those bullet points were a lifesaving guide when it came to reaching 50K, but some of them morphed a bit as holes developed and now I have to go back and fix those holes. On the night of November 30, my head was swimming with what still had to be done on the manuscript and not on the achievement.

Then I thought back to facing my fears with picture books. I went to multiple workshops, wrote a few manuscripts, but that didn’t instantly make me a success. I still had to submit to agents, hope one signed me, hope an editor liked one of my stories, hope bookstores buy it, hope people buy it, the hopes—some of them now realized, others TBD—go on and on, and it’s a loooooooong process to see how those hopes turn out.

So here we are now, two weeks after NaNoWriMo ended, and I am feeling Jazzed with a capital J about it! I’m so glad I did it, I’m so glad I jumped into my first YA project and let that word count goal drive me to type, type, type, type, type and not think too hard about making something perfect from the start. No manuscript is ever perfect from the start, and in a publishing world where every step forward can take quite some time, why not try to write a first draft quickly? It can speed up the whole process. And who knows, maybe facing this fear will help me someday see a YA book on the shelves with my name on it, something I never thought would happen. Just like I never thought I’d see any book with my name on it, but, here we are 🙂

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IMG_2512 - WEBJason Gallaher is a picture book and middle grade writer who loves to create stories that mix the flamboyantly whacky with the slightly dark. His debut picture book, WHOBERT WHOVER, OWL DETECTIVE, releases on July 18, 2017, from Margaret K. McElderry Books. When not writing, Jason zips about Austin, Texas. Things Jason fears include rats, an empty fridge (he gets hangry), and dying without meeting Anjelica Huston. Jason is a self-described Hufflepuff, and he is actively looking for an Andalite friend. (Photo Cred: David-Gabe Photography)
 

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Great Gifts For Writers

It’s that time of the year again, when the holidays loom and suddenly we’re scrambling to meet deadlines, catch up on projects, and prepare for holiday festivities. I thought it might be nice to share a list of great gifts for writers – perfect for any time of the year and for any occasion from birthdays to launch parties to celebrating The Call or just because.

  • Journals and writing pads: Always a fun gift, although some writers are very particular about what journal or writing pad they use.

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  • Gift card to an office supply store:  I don’t know any writer who doesn’t love shopping for office (writing) supplies.
  • Gift card to a local indie book store

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  • Bookends: Writers have tons of books. You can probably find a bookend to match the writer’s passions on Etsy. From mermaids to steampunk, there’s a perfect bookend out there for everyone.

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  • A travel tea or coffee thermos: I have a tea thermos with infuser that I love. It keeps my tea hot for 6 hours. No need to reheat or top off.

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  • Or a travel thermos to keep things cold: My new favorite keep-cold thermos is by S’well. They claim liquid will keep cold for 24 hours! They also claim hot liquids will stay hot for 12. I once left it in my hot car for two hours and when I returned the water was still ice cold.

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  • Coffee mugs
  • Offer of babysitting if the writer has young children.
  • Book-related clothing: From socks to scarves to t-shirts, Out of Print has some fun stuff, like these library card socks.

 

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  • Gift card for massage: Writers sit a lot.
  • Earbud holder: This one works great for keeping earbuds from getting into a tangled mess.

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I’d love to hear some of your ideas for perfect writer gifts. Happy shopping!


web_edit6xx8t3624Debbi Michiko Florence loves to shop. She writes full time in her cozy studio, The Word Nest. Her favorite writing companions are her rabbit, Aki, and her two ducks, Darcy and Lizzy.

Jasmine Toguchi, Mochi Queen and Jasmine Toguchi, Super Sleuth, the first two books of her debut chapter book series will be coming out from Farrar Straus Giroux on July 11, 2017, with two more books to follow. She is also the author of an early reader series, Dorothy & Toto (Picture Window Books/2016).

You can visit her online on her web site and her reading blog. She’s also on Twitter.

 

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Filed under Advice, Gifts