I Read Banned Books
Green Bean Teen Queen
I'll be back in the coming days with more links!
And if you are so inclined, there are lots of great ways to buy yourself a copy of The Barftastic Life of Louie Burger.
Thanks for your support!!!
I was sure that it had only been a month or two since my last post, but obviously not. What can I say. I've been working on a new YA that's just been not quite right, not quite right, not quite right. But finally, finally I feel that I might be getting it to work.
I've been working on it for two years now (though I took time away to write Sami's Sleepaway Summer and to do a revision of Louie.) It's hard to leave a book mid-draft. When you come back to it, you are not the same person you were before and for me, I think that often means the story I need to tell is not the same story anymore. And that means a lot of do overs. But this time, I'm almost finished. And I really like the story I'm telling.
I especially like working in my new office.
I'm an introspective person. I often analyze my thoughts and actions and I'm fairly self-aware in a mostly positive way. All that introspection and self-awareness means that there's no hiding from the fact that I, like many people, have quite a few bad habits and self-defeating practices. Being who I am, this has led me to the treasure trove that is the self-help aisle of the book store. I LOVE these books. I've learned so much from them about challenging my own thinking and being patient with my emotions.
The problem I have is that in my zeal to improve myself, I can often get overwhelmed. There are so many ways I could become better, how can I possibly accomplish them all at once?
I can't, of course. And one of the things I've learned from self-help books is to have compassion for myself. It's hard to see all these flaws and accept that for the time being some of them will not change.
On the other hand, sometimes it's the ideas and stories I tell myself about making the change that are what seem so difficult. In reality, the action itself is easy. Like writing everyday. I tell myself stories about how hard it is to commit to that, but in reality, a small goal, like writing one hundred words a day, is no trouble at all.
That's why I'm signing up for Brenda Ferber's 365 day challenge. It's a habit I think a lot about developing, and now I think it's time.
My father is a psychologist who sees, for part of his practice, people considering gastric bypass surgery. On of the things he works on with them is developing an exercise habit. He's always told me, the most important step in that process is committing to five minutes a day. If you can commit to five minutes a day, and sustain it, you are more than half-way there. Because the real hurdle is the dread of getting started.
So, here I go. Day one!
P.S. My scarf is going great. I'm about 35 inches in. I'll post a pic when it's done.
In my teens writing was a hobby. I carried a notebook with me where ever I went and wrote poems as they struck me. Some days I might write half a dozen poems and some days or weeks I'd write none. It didn't really matter. I wrote when I enjoyed it and I enjoyed what I wrote.
In my twenties, writing was a dream. I wanted to be a professional writer, but I wasn't sure what kind. I only knew that I wasn't a professional writer, and I couldn't really enjoy writing as a hobby anymore either. I suffered (in my mind) a lot.
In my thirties, I became a published children's book author. I learned to enjoy writing again. But it's still no longer a hobby. It's work, and I do it everyday, even when I don't enjoy it. And I LOVE this. But I miss having a hobby. A creative hobby.
So I'm thinking of taking up knitting. Something I can do when the mood strikes, but don't have to do if I don't feel like it. My mother is an accomplished knitter, and I've already put in the request for lessons over Thanksgiving. Like millions of knitters before me, I'm sure my first project will be a scarf. I'll let you know how it goes.
Son, in Obi Wan coustume, rings doorbell: Trick or Treat!
Older gentlemen opens door: Whoa! A Jedi!
Son, amazed: You've seen Star Wars?
The force is old, but as popular as ever. At least in our house.
Visiting so many varied and insightful blogs over the past week and a half has been delightful. Huge thanks to the bloggers hosting me. And of course, I'm happy to visit any other blogs out there who want me! Hint, hint. ; )
Join me today talking about orphans in children's and ya lit over at Carrie's YA bookshelf.
There was an article in Whole Living this month (love that magazine) about obsessions. Specifically it's about creativity coach Eric Maisel's new book Brainstorm: Harnessing the Power of Productive Obsessions. (Which I totally haven't read, but after reading the article totally want to.)
I've always been prone to mini-obsessions. When I get interested in something I like to complete dive in, read and watch everything I can about it all at once. I used to see it as a failing. Can't I just space my interest in, say, Chi Walking, out over a few weeks, learning about it in a leisurely manner? Do I have to drop everything until I've practically overdosed on information?
Well, yeah, maybe I do. According to the article, by giving ourselves over to our interests like that we can develop a productive obsession: "something you choose to engage in because it fascinates you and ultimately leads you to create something (a documentary, a street fair, a screenplay.)"* Or, in the example above, a walking habit.
The idea of productive obsession is especially useful for writers, I think. Each book I've written, I've had to be a little obsessed with or it never would have been finished. I've also had to purposely cultivate some obsessions to get research done for the books. But that's part of the fun, no?
Okay, I've got to get back to my latest obsession...car racing. :)
*From the article "The Perfect Brainstorm" by Frances Lefkowitz in the August issue of Whole Living
Danica Patrick's autobiography right now (research,) and this weekend watched Believe: The Eddie Izzard Story. You wouldn't think those two have a lot in common but I was struck by the way they both spend a lot of time discussing the way they truly believed in themselves early on in their careers. When the results weren't necessarily supporting the belief, when others around them were continuously voicing doubts, somewhere deep down they were able to maintain a core of self-belief, a certainty that they could and would achieve their dreams.
I remember reading once about a guy (I think it was Nicholson Baker) who decided for a year to only read books seen in catalogs. That is, not for sale in catalogs, but books used for decoration in catalogs. I thought that was funny, but this is funnier: http://catalogliving.tumblr.com/
Thanks to my friend Shari for the link!
P.S. two more dates added to my tour
7/19 Green Bean Teen Queen
7/20 YA Books Central
Congratulations to the following 20 classrooms, schools and teachers that have one the third grade box of fun!
I'll be in touch!
Mr. K. at Chandler Elementary School, Indiana
Mrs. B. at Shawswick Elementary, Indiana
Mrs. M. at Bart-Colerain Elementary, Pennsylvania
Mrs. R. at Kratz Elementary, Missouri
Mrs. B. at Mabel Elementary, North Carolina
Mrs. Y. at Lake Windward Elementary, Georgia
Mrs. J. at Washington Elementary School, Wisconsin
Ms. D. at Glover School, Massachusetts
Ms. L. at Mt. Marion Elementary School, New York
Mrs. S. at Ft. McCoy School, Florida
Mrs. C. at Braeside School, Illinois
Mrs. M. at St. Stephen's Episcopal School, Pennsylvania
Ms. G. at Orrington Elementary, Illinois
Ms. W. at Harris Elementary School, Missouri
Ms. H. at Woodland Consolidated School, Maine
Ms. S. at Franklin School, New Jersey
Ms. D. at South Allegheny Elementary, Pennsylvania
Ms. B. at South Allegheny Elementary, Pennsylvania
Mrs. H. at Walter C. Black Elementary, New Jersey
Ms. S. at J. Fred Spark School, Levittown, New York
Thank you to everyone at ISLMA who came to hear my talk on chapterbooks, a topic so near and dear to my heart. Here is a list (definitely not exhaustive) to get you started!
• Adler, David : Cam Jansen books
• Armstrong, Jennifer: Patrick Doyle is Full of Blarney
• Avi,: S.O.R. Losers
• Auch, Mary Jane: I Was a Third Grade Science Project and others
• Betancourt, Jeanne: Pony Pals series
• Blume, Judy: Freckle Juice
• Brown, Jeff: Flat Stanley books
• Catling, Patrick: The Chocolate Touch
• Chew, Ruth : The Wednesday Witch (and other books)
• Choe, Sook Nyul: The Best Older Sister
• Christopher, Matt: Soccer Cats series
• Clifford, Eth: Help! I'm A Prisoner In The Library
• Coerr, Eleanor : Sadako And The Thousand Paper Cranes
• Conford, Ellen: Jenny Archer books
• Coville, Bruce: Space Brats books and many others
• Cuyler, Margery: Weird Wolf and others
• Dadey, Debbie: Bailey School Kids series and others
• Dahl, Roald: George’s Marvelous Medicine, The Enormous Crocodile and others
• Dalgliesh, Alice: The Courage of Sarah Noble and also The Bears on Hemlock Mountain
• Danziger, Paula: Amber Brown books
• Deary, Terry: Calamity Kate
• DeClements, Barthe: Fourth Grade Wizards
• Delton, Judy: Pee Wee Scouts series
• Duffey, Betsy: Math Wiz; Gadget War; How to Be Cool in Third Grade
• Estes, Eleanor: The Hundred Dresses
• Friedman, Laurie: The Mallory Books
• Gannett, Ruth: My Father's Dragon
• Giff, Patricia Reilly: Polk Street School books
• Gifford, Peggy: Moxy Maxwell Books
• Greenburg, Dan: The Zach Files series
• Gutman, Dan: Weird School series
• Haddix, Margaret Peterson: Say What?
• Herman, Charlotte: the "Max Malone" titles
• Hesse, Karen: Sable
• Hiller, BB: Rent a Third Grader
• Howe, James: Bunnicula books
• Hughes, Ted: The Iron Giant
• Hurwitz, Johanna: Class President; Fourth Grade Fuss and others
• King-Smith, Dick : Lady Lollipop and many others
• Kline, Suzy: Herbie Jones and Horrible Harry books
• Korman, Gordon: Nose-Pickers from Outer Space
• Krulik, Nancy: Katie Kazoo books
• Kurtz, Jane: Bicycle Madness; I’m Sorry Almira Ann
• Landon, Lucinda: Meg Mackintosh series
• Levy, Elizabeth: The monster series (Dracula is a pain in the neck- Gorgonzola Zombies in the Park...etc.)
• Lowry, Lois: Gooney Bird Greene books
• Look, Lenore: Alvin Ho books
• MacLachlan, Patricia: Sarah, Plain And Tall
• Martin, Ann: Baby-Sitters Younger sister series
• Meyerhoff, Jenny: Third Grade Baby
• Mills, Claudia: 7x9=Trouble; Being Teddy Roosevelt; How Oliver Olson Changed the World
• Myers,Laurie: Earthquake in the Third Grade
• Osborne, Mary Pope: The Magic Treehouse Series
• Park, Barbara: The Junie B. Jones series
• Pennypacker, Sara: Clementine Books
• Peterson, John: The Littles series
• Pilkey, Dav: The Adventures of Captain Underpants
• Roy, Ron: A to Z Mysteries Series
• Rylant, Cynthia: Cobble Street Cousins books
• Sachar, Louis: Marvin Redpost series
• Sharmat, Marjorie: Nate the Great series
• Sobol, Donald: Encyclopedia Brown Series
• Stine, R.L.: Goosebumps
• Strasser, Todd: Help I'm trapped in... series
• Szeika, Jon: The Time Warp Trio series
• Wright, Betty Ren: The Ghost Witch
No one ever wants to get into a rut, but for me, for many things, I need to do them the same way over and over again everyday for them to "work."
Take writing for example.
When I first started writing, when it was a hobby, and something I didn't really believe I could do, I only wrote sporadically. I only wrote when I was inspired. Writing was mostly fun, but I didn't revise most of what I wrote, and none of it was ever really good, though some of it was promising.
When I finally was hit with a burning desire to really write, to try to write something worth having written, I decided to see what all the fuss was about writing every day, the BIC (butt-in-chair) method. It's much harder, in a way. There are many days I don't feel "inspired" and I sit at much computer feeling as though it takes a monumental effort to type each word. But lately I've noticed that these days happen more often if I'm not writing every day. Even if I write only one paragraph, it's still easier to sit down the next day to write another paragraph than if I hadn't. It's a habit.
I know I'm not the first person to make this observation, and I didn't even make it for myself. I've certainly heard others talk about it before I felt it. But some things are like that. You can hear them over and over, but then one day you live them, and it means something completely different.
I've been writing a lot lately, which is a good thing, but it means less blogging, unfortunately. There are only so many hours in my day allotted to writing, and I use them all for writing books. :)
Blogging usually has to come from life time. (I have two lives, writing life and life life.) But life life is filled with kids and house and friends and laundry. Although that's probably the wrong order. Laundry always seems to take up so much more time that it should.
But I've been thinking about blogging a lot lately, about what this blog should be and this post is an attempt to regain focus. The purple desk was always supposed to be a place full of thoughts on creativity. (Different, I suppose, from creative thoughts.) So, I wanted to tell you about this great new book I'm reading perfect for all creative types. The Creative Habit, by Twyla Tharp. Maybe you've already read it. But if no, I highly recommend. I'm not even all the way finished with it yet, but it's made such a change in my writing life. (See? It's real.)
She talks a lot about the importance of routine and ritual in making your creativity habitual and not simply something you do once every second Tuesday when you feel the impulse and your toenails are already polished. And it works! I've signigicantly decreased the amount of puttering and procrastination that happens in writing life and have written so much above my typical output this week. Yay!
My ritual is this:
1. Make cup of tea.
2. Set Zen Timer.
3. Open Document.
4. Start timer.
Often times I don't even drink the tea, but it gets me started so it's worth the sacrifice of all those little tea bag lives. :)
A big huge thank you to the fantastic Barbara O'Connor because her blog introduced me to The Creative Habit.
I spent the week in Knoxville, TN last week. Not for anything writing related, but definitely for something creativity related. I took my daughter (and her team of six seventh-graders) to compete in the Global Finals of Destination Imagination
. Destination Imagination is hard to describe. It's a creative problem solving competition. It's a place where smart/creative kids can be as smart and creative as they want without ever having to feel like they should hold back.
I don't know about you, but somewhere along the lines in my life I internalized the hold back message. Be smart, but not too smart. Be successful, but not too successful. We don't want to make other people feel bad about themselves. I remember many times growing up being told not to do something as well as I could have because of how it would reflect on others around me who couldn't. Now I'm not saying I'm so great either. I'm sure there are plenty of people who can do plenty of things better than me. All I'm saying is that they should be able to. How I handle it is up to me. It's not the other person's responsiblity to dumb themselves down to make me feel better.
Here, I'll bring it around to writing. When I read a book that is better than what I can write it might make me feel a little jealous or wistful, but I don't think, "This shouldn't have been published because it's making all of us lesser writers feel bad." It's an inspiration. I want to get that good. If we never see what greatness is, how will we ever aspire to it?
You know how many kids were at Global Finals? 12,000. And that's just a small portion of the number of kids who competed throughout the year. How great to know that that many people in the next generation are growing up knowing they should work to their full potential.
If you are interested in this topic, I recommend the book The Big Leap. It's about several things that can hold us back from success, but this holding back is a big one.