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It’s my absolute pleasure to introduce you to baby Theo, born March 11th. We’re doing really well as a new family and he is loving all of his wonderful books. He’s especially a big fan of Oliver Jeffers so far, from what I can tell. Or maybe I’m just projecting.
Theo’s entrance was a whirlwind. He was born about three and a half hours after we got to the hospital. He’s now smiling, eating, sleeping, and going through diapers like he owns Pampers stock. We just put his newborn clothes away because they got too small. There’s this little rhinoceros onesie that made me cry as I packed it up. I can’t believe I’ll never see this kid in it again! I can’t wait for him to grow and learn and become his own little person, but I don’t want him to age another minute. He has already gained three pounds since birth. Oy!
Spring has sprung in Minneapolis, finally, and I’ve been taking him on walks around our lake with our two dogs in tow. They are fiercely protective of their little brother, and can’t wait to be his best friends for life, once he’s more able to play.
My freelance editorial business is still up and running, in case you’ve been curious about my services. I have been working from home since 2005, so I’m always working, and never working at the same time. Other freelancers will know what I mean! It’s a juggling act but I am more than used to it.
Life is great! Some of you probably read my post about the journey to get here. I’m happy to report that it was all worth it, and that I’d do it all again tomorrow because motherhood has brought me so much* already in these five short weeks. Thank you to everyone here for your support and good wishes. Back to our scheduled programming next week!
Thank you to everyone for the amazing response about the baby news! (See the original announcement here, I posted about it in December.) In addition to the glorious books that rained down on Baby Macdonald, which I will speak to in a moment, I also heard from a lot of people who have walked their own complicated paths toward their family goals. This is exactly why I have no problem talking about the IVF process. Too often, people who struggle can’t help but feel alone, whether it’s because they feel ashamed about their problems, or others have made them feel that way. This is horrible. We all have our crosses to bear, and yet there’s great strength in community. None of us are truly alone if we choose not to be, and I’m really glad I decided to speak up.
Human connection is one of the great joys of life, and it was a real honor to hear from my blog readers who have done fertility treatments, who’ve adopted, who’ve lost pregnancies and children, or who still haven’t reached their desired destinations. It was incredibly touching to share in such intimate stories with my readers.
As for the books, oh the books! My husband, Todd, and I were moved to tears by the generosity and love pouring in from you blog readers. We stuffed Baby’s bookshelf twice over! My favorite part, however, was hearing from readers. One sent me something that I’d originally seen as part of a Writer’s Digest webinar critique. That little manuscript went on to sell at auction, and a few years later, there it was on my doorstep as a published book, complete with an inscription to Baby. Talk about coming full circle! Another package arrived from a very well-established author who I have long, long, long admired, with an incredibly touching note. I had no idea this author was one of my readers!
To all of you who sent books, I have done my best to send a handwritten Thank You card. Some Amazon deliveries would only let me send a digital Thank You where I couldn’t find a return address (ugh, so impersonal!). There were also a few packages where I accidentally discarded the return label before I had a chance to note who was responsible for what. If the wonderful readers who sent me IVAN THE TERRIER, ALL THE WORLD, and LITTLE GREEN would please email me, I’d love your address so I can send a proper note of gratitude. If you sent something and also haven’t heard back with a card, please let me know.
Now I’m in the home stretch, only a week away from our due date. I have no idea when the baby will start the eviction process. It could be today (!!!). It could be three weeks from now. (Oh, how I hope it’s not three weeks from now, though.) All this is to say that the blog will go a little silent for the next two weeks. But I’ll be back with an update once there’s something to share. Coming back to this blog after taking a hiatus in 2015 has been one of my great joys, so don’t worry, I won’t leave you hanging for too long!
Over the years, I have shared a lot of personal stuff with you, my dear writer-readers. Pets, tattoos, moves to Brooklyn, moves from Brooklyn, moves back to Brooklyn, and finally from Brooklyn for good (oy!). I mean, I still have people ask me about Sushi, a beloved cat I lost in 2011. It’s really been an honor to show up at the keyboard and share a bit of myself, a bit of my ideas, and a lot of my heart with you every week or so.
Now it’s time for me to reveal a very exciting personal development. Don’t worry, I’m still writing here. (They can wrench this domain name from my shriveled hands in 50 years!) I’m still working with my stable of amazing freelance editorial clients, and I couldn’t be happier. But in 2016, my family is finally growing with the addition of a baby in March! The gender will be a surprise.
This news is incredible for my husband and I, because of the road we took to get here. Everyone has struggles, and this was, unfortunately, one of ours. I have wanted to be a mother for as long as I can remember. Growing up an immigrant only child in a single-parent household was very lonely, and I always imagined that I’d one day fill my home with children, the more the merrier! But then we wandered into what I can only call hell: infertility.
I have made many lifestyle changes over the years to put my health first. I’m pretty young. I’m motivated. Every single time we failed to conceive, it felt like an incredible failure of body and spirit. When infertility is suspected, the burden usually falls on the woman because a whole lot more can go “wrong” in our systems as far as reproduction is concerned. There’s basically one test for men, while women sometimes spend years investigating the equipment. Every month, I sunk into a despair that words can’t exactly describe. This went on for two and a half years. That may seem like a blip. But when a child is what you want most in the world, and deep in your heart is the fear that you may never get to have that irreplaceable human experience, time almost seems to move backward. And since all of our tests came back perfectly normal, we didn’t even have a good explanation, which was maddening.
After cycling through half a dozen doctors (“You’re young! Just keep trying! Are you sure you’re doing it right?”), tens of thousands of dollars of tests, kits, and procedures (insurance becomes real scarce as soon as they hear “infertility”), acupuncture, therapy, yoga, even chakra-alignment (I’m from San Francisco, guys, and I was desperate…), we finally washed like ragged castaways on the shores of a fertility clinic. There, they administered an easy $300 test that nobody else would do because failing it was so unlikely. And we finally had our answer: my husband has a fluke sperm issue, so rare it doesn’t have a name, and so significant that we literally have a 0.0% chance of conceiving naturally. What are the odds!
That was the best/worst appointment of my life. The best, because we finally had closure, and a game plan. Luckily, IVF and a related procedure (ICSI) are made for exactly this scenario. The worst, because don’t nobody tell me I have a 0.0% chance at anything! Unfortunately, this one was bigger than my stubbornness. And it turned out that we tried for those two and a half years completely in vain. This was a tough pill to swallow. On the bright side, we ended up doing IVF in June, had a brilliant response, and I got a positive pregnancy test on my birthday in July!
Now, as I near the third trimester, we feel so lucky. I mean, infertility was basically the worst thing I’ve ever been through, and I’m still grieving the fact that, whenever we want to have a child, we have to roll up to a clinic with our wallets open instead of doing it the old-fashioned way. In fact, because I’ve had such stunningly bad results, I no longer believe that babies happen after unprotected sex! But there are those who have much more complex issues, who struggle for much longer. Our one IVF cycle (costing as much as a new car out of pocket), believe it or not, was pretty much the best case scenario in the advanced reproductive technology big leagues. (Most insurance counts infertility treatments as non-essential, sort of like a boob job, unless you have a great plan. But my husband is a small business owner and I’m a freelancer, so we pay handsomely for our minimal coverage.)
Now that I have that off my chest, I really waffled about writing this next part of the post. I’ve always seen my role in your lives as a guide and friend. It feels wrong to ask for anything in return because of the rich personal rewards that my work brings me every day. But I’m humbly reaching out to you now with a request:
Books are why we’re all here. And I would love to welcome our baby with a library of classic and contemporary children’s books that builds on what I’ve collected over my career. With IVF and my husband’s dream of opening a restaurant coming true this year, we simply can’t feather our literary nest. I want to flood this child’s life with love and beauty and letters. I want to greet them with good vibes (and good books) from the community I’ve created. This baby has been the dream of my heart for as long as I can remember, and now he or she is finally coming. If you have any new or pre-loved books, for any childhood stage, that you’re compelled to send along to us, it would mean the absolute world. I would personally be so grateful. Please write a note inside so that you can become a part of our story.
3109 West 50th Street, #348
Minneapolis, MN 55410
If material things, well, aren’t your thing, I was recently reminded by a freelance editorial client of my passion for the work of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, where I used to volunteer while living in San Francisco. I just started training as a volunteer for the Minnesota chapter. Already, this baby has inspired so much positive change and hope in our lives. In the same spirit, maybe he or she will inspire you as we head into the holiday season, to share some joy with a few extra hearts. You can find Make-A-Wish volunteer information and links to your local chapter here.
ETA: Because somebody asked, you can find our baby registry here.
Also, I feel obligated to add that, while many options for growing a family exist, I felt very strongly, being an immigrant with only three living blood relatives in this or any other country, that I wanted to try for biological children. It’s a deeply sacred, personal choice that every aspiring parent makes differently. For example, newborn adoption costs about as much as a round of IVF (or more) and there’s a lengthy approval process that could’ve added years to our journey.
I don’t really talk a lot about my personal life on here. Sure, I talk a lot about my thoughts on writing, and little anecdotes sneak through as I’m discussing various concepts. But it’s not like I’m on here spilling my guts about what goes on at home. However, since this is a week for gratitude and family, I wanted to share that I got married in October to a great guy named Todd who I’ve known since 2011. We met in our Brooklyn neighborhood of Carroll Gardens, and it turned out that we’d been living just a block away from one another for years! The night our paths crossed, I was coming home from the tremendous Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers conference in Utah, so I have them to thank!
Todd is a very talented chef, and in 2013, we moved back to his hometown of Minneapolis to buy a house, start a family, and open a restaurant. We bought our own slice of south Minneapolis in July, and are still working on the other two. We got married October 11th, 2014 down in New Orleans, one of our very favorite cities in the entire world. The whole thing was such a blast, and I’m very excited that the excellent photographer Sarah Becker Lillard was able to capture our day. You can see her blog post with some favorite shots here.
So far, 2014 has been the best year of my life personally, and professionally as well. I am wrapping up my busiest months as a freelance editor and novel coach. I’m very grateful to all of my clients for allowing me to come into their writing journeys, guide them, and get to know their work. I’m currently considering expanding my business to add some different services that writers have shown a lot of interest in. Stay tuned for that!
This week, I’d love to thank everyone reading this for your support. It has been an amazing journey to be able to bring you this blog for going on five years now. Wow! Have a wonderful holiday with your loved ones, and I’ll be doing the same over here. It’s such an amazing gift that we have all been brought together by the love of story and the written word. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
No, I’m not off to another state this time. Todd and I are happy in Minnesota. We are, however, gluttons for punishment, so less than a year after moving here, we bought a house and are moving again! This time, I hope, the time between moves will be more like ten years instead of ten months. So pardon the interruption in our regularly scheduled programming, I’ll be schlepping my boxes around and giving our we-hardly-knew-ye apartment a good cleaning. Talk to you again next Monday, when hopefully we will have our Internet all set up, and will have won some sort of Crate and Barrel mystery contest where they just decide to give us one of everything.
Frequenting a court clustered between stores, restaurants, and cafes, the place takes on a world of its own. I’ve been sketching here for quite a long time. Long enough to know it has its courtiers, kings, queens, and jesters. Dogs have a special ascendance. They are lavished with particular affection.
I often see the same people. The man above looked like he was visiting. The logo of the football team on his sweatshirt was an indicator.
1.This morning I braved our first frost and went on a bike ride. I came back with numb toes and fingers, but it was just beautiful. Perhaps it's time to move my bike riding inside. I'm amazed by the people who commute by bike all winter long. 2. My kids have a four day weekend. Today is a teacher furlough day, and while I'm happy to have my children home, I'm unhappy that our teachers are loosing pay. 3. With kiddos around there will be cleaning. Beware all you piles of dog fur in the corners! Stand back pile of laundry! We will defeat you. 4. I had a few wonderful writing days this week with high word counts, and dramatic scenes. I can really feel the forward movement of the manuscript (profluence, thank you Sarah Aronson). Very exciting to be climbing out of the muddy middle. 5. Monday, October 10th is my 18th Wedding Anniversary.
Although if you do (and maybe you should) you might find not only a new post by another terrific Picture Book creator, there's one every day for the month of November, but part-way down the middle column you will find that someone (now who would that be) has been appointed as International Liaison for the Advisory Board.
Go on have a look!
And you haven't even seen my post yet. You will just have to check in each day to find out when I am there. I promise it will appear!
Read Picture Books Share Picture Books Celebrate Picture Books ... all over the world!
Sure has been a bit of a crazy week. Much time has been spent:
working on the SCBWI Showcase for the Bologna Children's Book Fair that is on in a few weeks time;
collecting creates of book packages from the post office which contain books and postcards and stuff for me to take to Bologna where i'll be displaying books from this creative side of the world;
to sorting the SCBWI Crystal Kites Member Choice Awards (over 1200 books were nominated and for each division the 5 most popular go through to round two - and Sounds Spooky made it there);
dropping in to a school. I forgot to add a note last Tuesday to give a shout out to the Year 4 Sydney Grammar Prep Boys at St Ives. I had a fun morning with the boys there chit chatting about poetry in all its many forms and inspiring them (I hope) to write some really evocative and fun poetry of their own. I sure hope I get to see those poems.
This is the a quick snap of SOME of the Books and postcards and business cards that will soon be winging along to Bologna. Even allowing for my extra baggage allowance this IS a heavy bundle. Thank goodness for wheelie bags!
Pictured above for those of you who don’t know, the zookeeper of Allen’s Zoo exploring at one of my favorite places.
I saw something while exploring the intertidal zone today I’m not likely to see for a while again if at all. While looking at the usually seen inhabitants, (hermit crabs, sea stars) I rounded a rock and saw what I initially thought was the largest sea star I’d ever seen. It was about two and a half feet long (.7 meters). My mind making sense of something I’d never seen in the wild. Then realized then it wasn’t a sea star. It was a Pacific Octopus. I recognized the coloration from images in books I’ve used as reference. Although I know they happen around these ocean zones I didn’t know if it was still alive. It was not in water. I reached for my camera then remembered took the batteries out yesterday as they needed to be replaced. I then thought it probably wasn’t alive and waiting for the tide like the other things in the intertidal zone. It’d be sad to take a photograph of it then.
I have been reading up a storm lately. With everything that has been going on in real life, I've had time to do it too. I'm really happy that I'm catching up on my Goodreads challenge with my only being 10 books behind. I think I have a chance of catching up!
I don't know about you, but I feel relaxed and can zone out of my stressful little corner with a book. With the passing of my mother-in-law, I found solace in a book while trying to just be strong for my hubby and sister-in-law (who lives with us).
A few weeks before that my oldest daughter ended up in the hospital for a weekend, and that just made me read a lot as well, waiting around in hospital emergency rooms and then the actual hospital room while she slept.
The first book I read at the beginning of May when I became addicted to books probably to help me with everything that had been going on was The False Prince. I can't say enough about this book that would do it justice. I loved everything about this. The tone, the voice, the plot and just the structure of the book was pure perfection. I got so wrapped up in this story that I'm now searching in vain for high fantasy-type books. I love a book with great world building that really pulls me into the story. Sage was a character that I could really root for. If there is one book you read this year, please put this one on your to read list. You will be so happy you did. I am totally sending this one to my nephew because I have a feeling he will love it as much as I did.
I'm not going to give you a run down of every book I read, but I will pick out my absolute favorites with no spoilers.
Insurgent: Do I really need to explain myself on this one? Tris and Four (Tobias) I think that is all.
City of Lost Souls: You would think that after five books, you'd get tired of this series, but I don't. I absolutely love the world building in this one. It is so complicated and yet woven so well, I find myself going back to the other books and the Immortal Devices series to try and pick up any clues I can get. I will admit to getting a bit tired of Jace/Clary and really would like to see something epic happen to Izzy and Simon. I've been a Simon fan since book one and really want him to have this amazing kiss with Izzy. He deserves it.
The Immortal Rules: I read this one not really knowing what I getting into. I knew that it was a dystopian vampire story which I was like, um, okay. But this is Julie Kagawa and I know that she can do no wrong when it comes to writing. I'm gonna admit a little secret. I was not a big fan of The Iron King, however, I absolutely adored that series. For me it really took off after book two. I am so glad that I stuck with it. I am totally sticking with this series. Julie has grown so much as an author in the three or four years she's been pubbed now. I want some more Kanin and Allison!
Starters and Article 5: Amazing dystopian reads that will linger with you long after you put the book or e-reader down. As a former single mother, Article 5 really hit a nerve with me. A good nerve. Especially with so many people's rights being flushed down the toilet (North Carolina, I'm lookin
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No this is not a post about a loose sleeveless coat or outer covering, or part of our earthly structure, or ten an animal part. No. This is about the wonderful MANTLE conference that I spoke at in Newcastle yesterday. The MANTLE Conference is the annual professional conference of all teacher librarians in the Newcastle, Maitland, Taree, Lake Macquarie and Central Coast districts with more than 110 rolling in. What a brilliantly organised conference - complete with trade fair and goodie bags for delegates (and presenters too) with choccies, drink bottle and a 2GB memory disk disguised in the clasp of the lanyard. Clever bunch these organisers. One of the most difficult things to do at a conference is to collect the name tags so to do this the Mantle crew have at the end of the day lucky door prizes that are drawn -- to be eligible you have to return the badge! Smart one!
I was absolutely thrilled to be the Keynote Speaker for the conference and my topic was about a subject that i know best - ME - and exploring my involvement with the National Year of Reading, my ambassadorship of the National Year of Reading and why I wanted to jump aboard. And as is my way I threw in a whole lot of there bits and pieces as well - including Sounds Spooky and Python as well as a little commentary on society and the value of literature and the arts (or lack of it) and Picture Book Month.
I also presented a session on engaging reluctant readers, which I found out as my session was being introduced, was the number one requested session from the 2011 evaluation - glad they didn't tell me that when they asked me to talk on the topic. I would have flown into a mild panic. Also attending was my lovely friend Sarah Davis (i was able to pass to her a dining chair we uncovered in our lane - i only had to drive for 2 1/2 hours to give it to her!) and also Sue McKerracher (from National Year of Reading - NYR) and Karen Bonanno (Australian School Library Association (ASLA). Great to meet Karen for the first time and catch up again with Sue, who also gave me the photos of taken of me at the launch of NYR in Canberra earlier this year. And folks were taking notes as i was talking ... I still get amazed when folks are taking notes on the topics I talk about!
This photo, with Lara O'Donoghue (conference organiser and Ian McLean, TL from Penrith primary school) was taken straight after my keynote and sent around the world on Facebook - I know because folks showed me!
This photograph taken some time ago I felt deserved a second look.
Also..I’d like to acknowledge a nomination for the Beautiful Blogger Award. I’m deeply honored by the nomination because it comes from someone who’s photography and intelligently sensitive writings about photography and art set him way above the pack. Here’s a link to Munchow’s Creative Photo Blog. It’s well worth checking out.
I rarely get personal on this blog. But I'm about to. So if you'd rather scroll down for my MMGM recommendation, TRUE COLORS by Natalie Kinsey-Warnock, feel free.
Now that summer's over, I can tell you it wasn't the happiest of seasons.
For the past ten years, I worked in the Children's Department of Chester County Book & Music Company.
(Taken in September 2010)
A lovely young woman named Suzanne hired me and trained me (in fact, I was the only one there all these years who was hired and trained by her). Everything I know about bookselling, I learned from this wise and funny gal. She left the bookstore in 2003 to move on in her career, even owning her own store at one point. I had dinner with her in Portland, Maine, where she was then working, in 2007. Years went by and we lost touch.
Suzanne and me in 2007
In mid-June of this year, I learned that she had passed away suddenly, senselessly, tragically, at the age of 39. The family had a private funeral and promised a memorial service in Pennsylvania at a later date.
Then in mid-July bookstore employees, followed quickly by the public, learned that the bookstore has been operating on a month-to-monthlease since January. A fitness center is interested in the space and it's only a question of time before the deal is completed and the bookstore will then close.
These two seemingly disparate events combined in my mind to make this a difficult summer. I learned that some people in authority will stoop to nefarious means to find out what people said on their facebook page. I learned who my friends were ( You know the ones who ask how your vacation was? Those are your friends).
I realized that life is too short and what I really want to do is write for kids.
So that's what I'm doing. And yes, I am blessed to be able to afford to do this. I gave notice at the bookstore and timed it so that my last day was Friday, September 14. The next day was the memorial service for Suzanne. It seemed entirely fitting to me that my career as a bookseller should both begin and end with Suzanne. Rest in peace, dear friend.
* * * * * *
What will I miss about the bookstore?
I will miss meeting people who love children's books. I will miss recommending books to my favorite customers and talking about books with enthusiastic book lovers. Luckily, I can still do that with this blog! I will miss unlimited advanced reading copies at my fingertips.
I will miss this:
(But I can still meet wonderful authors like Richard Peck at book signings anywhere)
I will miss this:
What won't I miss?
I definitely won't miss this:
Yes, we were still using DOS computers
The ceiling leaked when it rained
I won't miss selling toys. I won't miss shrieking toddlers. I won't miss checking the public restrooms at closing time. And I won't miss working every Saturday for ten years. I won't miss that at all!
I'm now self-employed and loving it. I figured the blog needed a facelift, so that's why it looks different. And next week I'll be having a giveaway to celebrate my new status!
* * * * *
Now for today's MMGM. Marvelous Middle Grade Monday is the brainchild of Shannon Messenger. For other participants, see my sidebar. I think my friend Suzanne would have enjoyed this book about family and friendships and one summer of self-discovery for a sensitive girl.
True Colors by Natalie Kinsey-Warnock (Coming November 13 from Knopf, for ages 8 to 12)
Source: advanced reading copy from publisher
Synopsis (from Indiebound): One girl's journey to find the mother she never had, set against the period backdrop of a small farming town in 1950s Vermont. For her entire life, 10-year-old Blue has never known her mother. On a cold, wintry day in December of 1941, she was found wrapped in a quilt, stuffed in a kettle near the home of Hannah Spooner, an older townswoman known for her generosity and caring. Life with Hannah so far has been simple—mornings spent milking cows, afternoons spent gardening and plowing the fields on their farm. But Blue finds it hard not to daydream about her mother, and over the course of one summer, she resolves to finally find out who she is. That means looking through the back issues of the local newspaper, questioning the local townspeople, and searching for clues wherever she can find them. Her search will change her life forever.
Why I liked it: This beautifully-written novel is a true middle-grade in the purest sense. There's not a lick of romance. Instead there's adventure and mystery. There are fascinating characters. And historical fiction fans will love this -- it's the summer of 1952, a time period not often treated in children's literature. It's also one of those quiet books I'm so fond of (see this post about another). The synopsis doesn't tell you that an important part of the book is Blue's friendship with Nadine or that Nadine has trials of her own. It doesn't mention Raleigh, a man who suffered a brain trauma and now can only say a few words. And it doesn't mention Mr. Gilpin, the newspaper editor, who offers Blue her first paying job. Along with Hannah, all these people are important to Blue, for varying reasons. The only drawback is that this book won't be published until November! So add it to your TBR lists.
Taken by my daughter while doing one of my favorite things.
I want to thank friends of Allen’s Zoo as we approach the end of the year, the response to my work still amazes me. I also want to wish everyone a very happy New Year and albeit a belated Merry Christmas. The holidays arrived before I knew it.