Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Almost Wordless Wednesday

I was going through all my photos and I stumbled upon this one. Taken at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden a few weeks ago. I believe I caught Wordless Wednesday in the nick of time.

It's just...well...look at him.

Monday, April 28, 2014


Last week I sat reading the classic children's story The Velveteen Rabbit to Little O and I turned each page in anticipation, having forgotten the story of a toy rabbit who wished to understand what it meant to be real. 

I'll admit that I have wondered too, over the years, what it means, to get real, to be considered real when it's said that someone is a real person, as opposed to, I guess, a fake one. I have wondered, particularly, what it means to be real at something.

A few years ago, there was an opportunity at my day job to write a small story that would be turned into a book packaged along with a toy and when I assumed I would write it, me being the content lead on the project, the execs, the people that mattered, had their say. Oh no, they laughed, we're going to hire a real writer.

At the time, that hurt my heart in ways neither of us could not understand.

I had been working, have been working, all this time, to be real, to suit my own definitions of the word, whatever those definitions might be. I wondered what credentials I could present, to prove my realness. The figurative ink on my fingers. The reams of paper. The hundred of thousands of millions, perhaps, words I'd written since I was an eight year old girl.

So, as I read, I listened to the Velveteen Rabbit's questions about being real. And I listened carefully to the Skin Horse's reply:

Does it hurt? asked the Rabbit.

"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."

"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"

"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand." 

I sat back and I secretly thanked the Skin Horse (and I thank him now again) for helping me learn what it means to be real, in my own eyes and in the eyes of others. The bruises. The bumps. The beautiful mystery of it. I thank him for helping me remember what it means to become anything at all.

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.