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1. 50 States Against Bullying: NORTH CAROLINA

For the ninth state on the 50 States Against Bullying campaign, I visited The O'Neal School in North Carolina, speaking to students in grades 8-12. There were trees everywhere at this school, making the campus and its surroundings absolutely beautiful.

Even the statues were flipping out over the trees!


Yes, I considered adding myself somewhere within that sequence of statues for a photo-op, but then I considered the fact that I would probably hurt myself. So I didn't.

Meanwhile, inside the school, students had begun mounting #ReasonsWhyYouMatter cards to both sides of this board. Reading through these notes has becomes a great way to focus myself before I begin speaking with the students.


Giving a speech using Powerpoint, as I do, helps calm the nerves. This way, hundreds (sometimes thousands!) of eyes aren't constantly just on you.


Of course, if you get on a roll and skip over a topic, it becomes obvious once the wrong slide pops up. But I recovered from this mishap, which is thankfully rare. And, at the end of my talk, I even got my first standing ovation!


Signing books and chatting with students and teacher afterwards often turns emotional, and that was very true at this stop. While the stories shared could be heartbreaking, it is also inspiring to see people so willing to open up. That's always been a hard thing for me to do myself, so I never take these moments lightly. In fact, I feel like I learn from each one of those students.

But not all moments included tears. For example, I got to meet Miss North Carolina Junior High School America!


After my school visit, I had a bit of  time before heading to the airport, so I headed to...The Country Bookshop! This store provided books for my school visit, and was also a great place to browse (like I said, it's a bookshop). They recently began having visiting authors sign a tabletop in their store, which I did. While I signed it, the table was also being used for a meeting between the store's book buyer and a sales representative from another publisher (not mine, so they shall remain nameless...but easy to figure out). When I mentioned that I wrote the forward to one of this publisher's recent releases, Positive, by Paige Rawl, the bookseller brought her store copies over for me to sign.

So if you live near Southern Pines, go grab these books. Plenty of people have copies of Paige's memoir signed by Paige herself, but no one has a copy signed by me!





Now that I've flown on to the next state, I totally regret chickening out of a picture with those statues.

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2. Blueberry Diapers

Here is a recent design that I sold to Blueberry Diapers. Check out their wonderful company and product line.





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3. The autobiographical account of the youngest ever solo circumnavigation of the Earth

If you want to see the other side of the world, you can do two things: turn the world upside down or travel there yourself…  …which is exactly what 14-year-old Laura Dekker did. One Girl, One Dream is her incredible story. Laura Dekker was 14 years old when she started her solo navigation around the world […]

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4. My son and I are instant fans. We have taken to making fan art...



My son and I are instant fans. We have taken to making fan art in our spare time. Shown here are Peppermint Butler & Cinnamon Bun (who always seems to be melting?)



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5. Getting Old

Have you had your colonoscopy?
Your mammogram? Or hey –
Your stress test? Blood work? Body scan?
Get on it right away!

If you cannot relate to this,
Just wait a few quick years
For as you age, that youthful health
Dries up and disappears.

And then the testing days begin
So when you’re with your friends,
You’ll find your conversations
Follow healthcare’s latest trends.

When you are young, you think your youth
Will always be on hold.
It’s really quite surprising
How things change as you grow old.

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6. Flashlight by Lizi Boyd



This is a simple but cute picture book for younger children. The whole book is wordless and takes place at night. It features a boy who's camping near the woods and decides to go on a walk with his flashlight. The beam from the flashlight reveals the hidden world of night to the boy. Other select parts of the woods are lit as well: birch trees, luna moths and june bugs. The moon rises and offers another source of light. Interspersed are cut-out shapes offering glimpses of critters in trees and ponds. At the end, the animals get to use the flashlight and have fun shining it on the boy. A unique and fun picture book!

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7. From Here to There


How exciting!   

This month I've shipped a package off to Canada,
 
Finland, England and another to Ireland.   

(Earlier this year, I've have shipped to China, Spain, Japan, 

Russia, and Germany)  


It gives me such a kick when I think about the places the art is shipped.  

It's a small world. 

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8. Monday Poetry Stretch - Kodachrome

Over the last few weeks I have been scanning slides and revisiting old family photos. My uber-cute brother and sister are in the picture below! Don't you just love those Easter basket sunglasses?
While immersed in this project I've been reminded me of a story NPR ran a few years ago about a photo historian who found an archive of more than 14,000 photos taken by Charles W. Cushman. Cushman began using Kodachrome soon after it came out and used it to capture the world in ways it had never been seen before. 

You can hear the story at The Found Archive of Charles W. Cushman. Better yet, you can see some of the photos at Lost and Found: Discover a Black-and-White Era in Full Color.

Our family slides are not great works of art, but they contain an awful lot of history. I'm amazed that this array of images has captured the evolution of the television, clothing, hairstyles, and cars. So, today I'm thinking about old kodachrome and photographs. I hope you'll join me this week in writing about them. Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.

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9. Author Studies, Kathleen Hale, Native authors

Last week, the Guardian published an article by Kathleen Hale that detailed how she had stalked a blogger who wrote a negative review of her book. Understandably, the article prompted a great deal of conversation on social media, with many bloggers expressing fear about being stalked.

Amongst the responses to Hale were ones that said that reviews are about books, not their authors, and that an author should not take reviews personally. A book, some say, stands alone. The author does not matter.

I appreciate that response but am hitting the pause button. Here's why.

Teachers assign author studies. There are guides on how to do them. Publishers like Scholastic offer guides, too. In them, students are asked to do research on the author's life, and that author's body of work. They are asked to make connections between the author's life and work. They are also asked to make personal connections between their own life experiences and those of the author and/or characters in the author's books.

Given the amount of conversation that took place over Kathleen Hale's article, I'm pretty sure a student doing an author study of her will come across the article. I hope they come away from it thinking that Hale went too far in stalking the blogger. Perhaps, in the days to come, we'll learn more about why the Guardian published that piece, and, because I think Hale was wrong to stalk the blogger (she paid for a background check on the blogger, and later rented a car and went to the blogger's home), I hope that the Guardian editors add a note to the top of that article, linking to responses from the blogging community.

On AICL, I've said that authors matter because I know that teachers ask students to do author studies.

My preference is that teachers assign books by Native writers because when the book is assigned, the teacher can say, for example, "Cynthia Leitich Smith is a tribal member of the Muscogee Creek Nation." The teacher can show students Cynthia's website and the website for the Muscogee Nation, too.

In doing that, the teacher will be using present-tense verbs ('is' and 'are'), and pushing against the idea that American Indians no longer exist, and, against the monolithic and stereotypical image of American Indians as people in feathered headdresses who lived in tipis and hunted buffaloes.

In short, an author's identity matters, and it is why I advocate for Native authors.

Back to Kathleen Hale. Here's some of the responses to her article. Please read them, and, learn about stalking, too. Start with information provided at the Stalking Resource Center.


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10. the ghosts of night, the dreams of day

Had a lovely day yesterday, drawing for the love of drawing rather than for work. I always love catching up with Urban Sketchers Yorkshire, my sketchcrawling buddies, too. We spent the day at the National Emergency Vehicles Museum in Sheffield. It was right up my tree. Loved the subject matter. I could spend another day, or ten, there. And, maybe even a night; apparently there are many ghosts in this former police and fire station. If you believe in that sort of thing, of course. I don't but I'm willing to have my mind changed.

 There was a very specific colour scheme too. Reds, blacks and a little yellow were the colours of the day. I managed to not take seventeen pencils cases, which is an achievement for me, and narrowed it down to just the three sketchbooks. I always try to take some tools that I wouldn't normally draw with at home. I try and play a bit more on sketchcrawls. It feels like the right place to do that as you often encounter subject matter you wouldn't normally choose to draw. The red Bingo dabber was an inspired choice of pens.

 Here's something I've noticed during October, as I'm participating in Go Sober For October, I do a lot more with my weekends. It's much easier when you're not factoring in a 'big night' or a hangover. That's just another benefit to being sober; doing more stuff with your time. Just look at how my blogging has increased in the last month!

 The museum holds a vast range of fire service related memorabilia that had previously been sitting in attics and local fire stations all over the county and amongst the exhibits were prisoner files from the last century. I found these the most fascinating of all, and below are my drawings of some of the mugshots from around the 1940s. It's funny how just by drawing somebody, spending that time studying someone, you can feel a real connection with them. I don't just want to now more about the faces I drew, I feel an empathy, sympathy, for them. Protective towards them even, like I knew them. I guess what I'm trying to say was that I was touched by them. Maybe I do believe in ghosts.




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11. super interview & super book giveaway

It’s my treat to welcome children’s book author and illustrator Deb Pilutti. Deb and I recently traveled to and from the SCBWI fall conference on Mackinac Island. The many miles spent on Michigan highways gave me a chance to get to know Deb better. She’s a peach. (Well, not literally. But that would make her literary abilities all the more extraordinary, now wouldn’t it?) I know you’re going to enjoy getting to know her as much as I did. And so, my Frog on a Dime friends, meet my friend Deb Pilutti . . .

Deb Pilutti

Deb Pilutti

So, Deb, when did you know you wanted to become a children’s writer?

Let’s just say I was a little dense, so it took me awhile. The signs were there. When I was younger, I loved reading more than anything. A blank book was my most prized possession. I once had Leo Lionni as a design instructor in a college workshop and I was giddy to meet him because Little Blue and Little Yellow was one of my favorite books as a child. But still, I never saw writing and illustrating for children as an option. It wasn’t until I realized I was hoarding my own children’s books, and not sharing that it was something I wanted to do.

What is it about writing for children that appeals to you versus writing for adults?

Being silly.

What’s the most encouraging thing anyone has ever said to you related to your work?

Early on, I submitted a manuscript to an editor. She said it wasn’t right for her, but that she liked the illustrations and thought that I was a good writer and invited me to submit to her again. I was not very confident about my writing at that point, so it was exactly what needed to hear.

What advise would you give to someone who has been pursuing publication for a long time, with close calls, but no contracts?

Of course, I would say to keep trying. The fact that the person has come close means that they are on the right track. But I would also recommend doing something a little different to push yourself even more. It could be devoting more time to writing, or attend a conference or workshop or online class. A few years ago, this was the case for me. I decided to spend more time writing, which meant turning down some freelance opportunities. I also spent a couple of weekends at a writing retreat with some friends.

By Deb Pilutti Christy Ottaviano Books/Henry Holt

By Deb Pilutti
Christy Ottaviano Books/Henry Holt

What would you like to share about your NEW book–details! details!

Ten Rules of Being a Superhero is published by Christy Ottaviano Books/Henry Holt is a story  about the day in the life of a Lava Boy and his superhero toy, Captain Magma.

Lava Boy is making up the rules as he and Captain Magma go along – always in the spirit of superhero play. The rules are about being super from a child’s perspective, as in “Rule No. 2: Saving the Day is messy. But everyone understands,” or “Rule No. 5: Sometimes, Superheroes make a lot of noise.” At times, the action on the page is at odds with the rule.

I had so much fun making this book! And plenty of practice too, as I have spent an incredible amount of hours (A LOT) discussing the merits of various superhero powers with my children over the years. I particularly liked painting the spreads with Lava Boy’s toys in various states of distress. I am drawn to awkward, retro toys.

And for the super-super serious portion of our interview—let’s say your moral compass went missing. What make/model of car would you steal and why?

An old Ford pick up truck from the early 60s. And while my moral compass is missing, I’d nab a really great pair of vintage cowboy boots to go with it.

Good answer! Let’s try another one–on the assumption we could find a phone booth somewhere (a museum perhaps), who is the children’s author or illustrator you’d most like to be trapped inside with?

Maira Kalman. First of all, she seems like an incredibly interesting person and I would love to chat with her. She finds beauty and poignancy in the absurd, and I think she would find it in the phone booth. Plus, I would hope we would laugh a lot.

Feeling brave? How about naming three things we’d be surprised to learn about you.

I can only think of odd things – oh well. I talk to myself a lot. I have a collection of Star Trek figurines on my desk and I have an irrational aversion to using a salad fork.

Hey, I didn’t know you were a Trekkie. Thank you so much for stopping by, Deb. Best wishes to you on your super new book!

_____________________________________________

Want to WIN YOUR VERY OWN COPY of Ten Rules of Being of Superhero?

Between now and Noon on Friday, October 24, leave a comment and answer this question–Who is your superhero?

_____________________________________________
//

Deb Pilutti feels lucky to have a job where reading, playing with toys and
watching cartoons is considered “research”. She lives in Ann Arbor,
Michigan with her husband,two kids and one nervous border collie. Deb has
worked as a graphic designer and illustrator, creating toys and products
for children and is the author and illustrator of TEN RULES OF BEING A
SUPERHERO (Ottaviano/Holt) and BEAR AND SQUIRREL ARE FRIENDS (Simon &
Schuster), which will be published in 2015. Additionally, she illustrated
THE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS IN MICHIGAN and wrote THE CITY KID AND THE
SUBURB KID (both with Sterling).

 

And now, in honor of our special guest,  and in keeping with my quote-closing tradition, we’ll close with one of Deb’s favorite quotes . . .

Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working. ~ Pablo Picasso

 

 


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12. Review – Imagine a City

The sumptuous cloth cover and unfurling clouds swirling across the end pages indicate something special about Elise Hurst’s latest picture book, Imagine a City. You’ll recognise Hurst’s illustrations from her other picture books such as The Night Garden, Flood and The Midnight Club to name a few. Imagine a City is a glorious collection of […]

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13. Buy a copy of The Walking Dead Vol. 1 with an original oil painting by Ben Templesmith for an absurdly low price

Walkingdead5 Buy a copy of The Walking Dead Vol. 1 with an original oil painting by Ben Templesmith for an absurdly low price

Well, $412 seems absurdly low to us, anyway. 

Renowned horror/fantasy artist Templesmith has been experimenting with hand-painted covers for several books, and this is an original one of a kind oil painting done on a copy of The Walking Dead Volume 1. The painting was varnished, and I don’t know if you can read the book inside, but it seems to me that this is a pretty darned sweet collectible…especially for Halloween.

Also…Christmas is coming.

More Templesmith stuff at the 78Squid retail website.

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14. Today’s Marvel Mystery Event: House of M

House of M 2015 Todays Marvel Mystery Event: House of M

 

Today we stroll down memory lane to 2005. People were going to theaters to see Anakin lose his limbs in Revenge of the Sith, the last Star Trek movie wrapped up, and Harry Pottermania was well underway, And four young comedians were making us laugh on SNL as repertory players, Bill Hader, Andy Samberg, Jason Sudeikis and Kristen Wiig.

At Marvel, House of M was all the rage, as Brian Michael Bendis and Olivier Coipel explored a world drawn the imagination of the very powerful mutant known as The Scarlet Witch…events which would spill over the Marvel U for years to come.

In this image by Jorge Molina, Magneto, Wolverine, Gambit, The Hulk Psylocke, Ms. Marvel and that darned Spider-Man are all battling…something. And you’ll notice that Magneto is battling a raging…something else entirely.

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15. Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar Update

Author Page McBrier will appear at the Rowayton Library in Rowayton this Thursday, October 23, from 3:30 to 4:30.

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16. Writing Scams

Beware of scams perpetrated by authors and/or malicious others.

http://annerallen.blogspot.com/2012/10/beware-seven-deadly-writing-scams.html 


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17. KidLitCon 2014: Further Thoughts (and Sketches)

I meant to do this post last Thursday, but work spun dizzily out of my control, tossing me into a whirling black hole (do black holes whirl? I feel like they do) of getting-caught-up. Tanita's done some amazing posts with lovely photos of the... Read the rest of this post

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18. Glen Keane, Nora Twomey, Roger Allers, Robert Kondo, Graham Annable Will Present at Spark Conference

This week in Vancouver, the Spark CG Society will hold its annual Spark Animation conference and festival with an impressive group of presenters including Glen Keane, Nora Twomey, Roger Allers, Robert Kondo, and Graham Annable.

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19. "Planet" Reviewed At Reduce Footprints

Saving the Planet & Stuff is reviewed today at Reduce Footprints, a blog dedicated to researching and sharing information about easy ways to do positive things for the Earth. My favorite line--"The story is also wonderful for adults, of all ages, as it touches on the challenges of living life as a "greenie", in a fun and interesting way."

Notice that blogger Cyndi runs a couple of activities designed to build the green community.

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20. Book Review: I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

From Goodreads:
Jude and her brother, Noah, are incredibly close twins. At thirteen, isolated Noah draws constantly and is falling in love with the charismatic boy next door, while daredevil Jude surfs and cliff-dives and wears red-red lipstick and does the talking for both of them. But three years later, Jude and Noah are barely speaking. Something has happened to wreck the twins in different and divisive ways - until Jude meets a cocky, broken, beautiful boy, as well as an unpredictable new mentor. 
The early years are Noah's story to tell. The later years are Jude's. What the twins don't realize is that they each have only half the story, and if they could just find their way back to one another, they'd have a chance to remake their world.
Writing
I'm going to do my best to write this without shrieking or flailing and just stick to the facts about how well-written this novel is.  What I found most amazing was how clearly I could picture every scene and every character in this book, despite the fact that Nelson doesn't include a lot of description.  I'm quick to admit that most of the time when I read, I have vague pictures of things in my head, but I focus more on what's happening than on how it "looks" in my mind.  I think the reason I found this one so easy to picture was that the characters are just so very real.

That doesn't mean that I think the characters were entirely believable - I spent the first chapter feeling really weird about Noah and the way his mind works.  I'm still not willing to say that I think she captured a believable voice with him.  But the point of a novel isn't always realism.  And I think that in this one, the character of Noah is so much more than having a believable teenage voice.  He represents something, and his language reflects that.  

Once I got used to the metaphorical language and brilliant artistic images that are thrown around so perfectly, I just fell in love with who Noah and Jude are and how they relate to each other and to their family.  It's something I continue to find myself thinking about a mulling over even after having finished the book, because there is just so much there in terms of the ideas that Nelson is putting out, in addition to the compelling story and lovable characters.

Entertainment Value
I feel almost sacrilegious comparing a book, especially a YA book, to Bel Canto, which is my very favorite book ever.  Bel Canto was the first book I read that literally took my breath away and I am thrilled to report that Jandy Nelson replicated that amazing experience in this book.  It's just beautifully done.  The words are beautiful, the story is beautiful, and the meaning of it all is, yep, beautiful.  I've found myself retelling scenes in my head throughout the week, while I'm not reading, just because thinking about it is that much fun.  And I don't necessarily mean light or fluffy fun, because it's hard to read at times and deals with some really difficult subject matter.  It was fun in the way that something that pulls at your heartstrings and makes you sit up and pay attention is fun.

Overall
I really can't think of anyone I wouldn't recommend this book to.  I think there's something there to appeal to all readers, including those who aren't typically drawn to YA.  I recommend going into it with an open mind and not expecting to find the characters to be accurate depictions of your average teen.  Noah and Jude are anything but average, but I think the amazing writing and the deeper meanings more than qualify any suspension of disbelief required.

Thanks to NetGalley for provding a copy for me to review.

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21. I wonder what I should do today ?


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22. Seconds

I don’t remember where I heard about Bryan O’Malley’s newest graphic novel Seconds, but I immediately put myself on the library hold queue for it. You may recognize O’Malley as the creator of the Scott Pilgrim graphic novel series or maybe you might just know that the movie Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is based on one of those novels (I learned from the movie that I should have vegan superpowers but I must be doing something wrong because I’m still waiting for them). I’ve not read the graphic novel series, have you? And if so, should I?

But back to Seconds. It is about Katie, a successful chef who runs a hip restaurant called Seconds. She is in the midst of trying to strike out on her own with a brand new restaurant but the building is in such bad shape renovations are taking forever and costing a lot of money. Katie lives in a tiny room above Seconds in order to save money. One evening, there is an accident in the kitchen and a young waitress whom Katie has been trying to make friends with is badly burned. In her room, Katie is presented with a chance to change things. A notebook appears in which she it to write what she wants to change and then eat the little mushroom that was left beside it.

Now I know what you are probably thinking about that mushroom! I thought it too. But it isn’t that sort of mushroom. What it does is erase the accident. It never happened. Katie is happy and relieved and wishes she had more mushrooms because there is so much she would change if she could. And then she discovers the mushrooms are growing beneath the floorboard of a not frequently used storage closet behind the kitchen. She helps herself to quite a few of them, a dozen. And every time something happens that she doesn’t like, she can change it. Her new restaurant, her old boyfriend, friends, she changes them all sometimes more than once. She begins to get confused about what has and hasn’t happened.

She learns from Hazel, the waitress and now her friend who burned her arms that began this whole thing, that Seconds has a house spirit. The house spirit’s name is Lis and she makes an appearance in Katie’s room demanding she give back all those mushrooms, Lis’s mushrooms. But Katie refuses. Things get bad. Really bad.

The story is good, well told. The art is good too. They combine to make an enjoyable reading experience. I liked that Katie is a successful woman and this is her story. She is not drawn as tall and gorgeous, impossibly skinny and extremely well endowed. Nope, Katie is normal. Kind of short even with sort of crazy hair. I also enjoyed mulling over all the ways “seconds” can be applied in the story. From food so good you want seconds to second chances to how a life can change in seconds.

I don’t read graphic novels very often, not because I don’t enjoy them. I think I am just very picky about them. They have to meet some kind of worthiness test that I can’t even begin to articulate. But Seconds passed the test. I’m glad it did because it’s a good read.


Filed under: Books, Graphic Novels, Reviews Tagged: Bryan O'Malley

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23. The Fairy's Conversation

I found this little sketch while cleaning out my studio.  I nearly forgot about it.  Hope to come back to it in paint some day.

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24. Comic: Watch Those Dangling Modifiers...

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25. Have an affair - book, that is

There's nothing quite like falling in love with a new idea.

file0001781362730A lot of times it will happen when you are in the middle of another book. A book that has gone from pure pleasure to write to a kind of muddy slog.

And then a voice will whisper inside of you:  "This book sucks. But I'm a anew idea!  I would make a wonderful book. I would practically write myself. "

Do not give into temptation.  Do not divorce your current book to run off and hastily marry your new idea. Because one day you will wake up and you'll realize you are stuck in the same muddy slog, only now it's with your once shiny new idea.

Does that mean you should give up on your wonderfu, sexyl new idea?

No. But what you should do is make it your affair book. Yes, sneak off every now and then to write it. Write with passion. Leave when it starts suggesting you need to do the dishes or take out the garbage. Come back to it with presents of energy and excitement and insight.  Repeat as necessary.

Two of the best books I've ever written were not under contract, and I really shouldn't have been writing them. But I snuck out every now and then to meet up with them secretly. And I'm so glad I did.

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