Small Circles

The writing world, especially the KidLit world, is small. And wonderfully giving. About two years ago I started using twitter again. I’d put it aside for a few years when I took a break from writing for a bit (had a baby and moved a few states away). But, I slowly started getting back into it and finding kidlit writer folks. I started making connections to people, published and unpublished, agented and un-agented, bloggers, readers, just people who love great stories. And I found it to be so welcoming and affirming.

Take the plunge, jump into conversations, send messages when you see something that piques your interest. I have yet to find someone who just does not want to interact in this way.

I know I’ve mentioned before that I am part of an email support group of other agented, but as of yet, unpublished authors. We call ourselves the Lucky 13 (we were the 13th group put together by the fabulous Natalie ParkerĀ ) and within the pages and pages of Emails we’ve sent, I’ve found some of the best people out there.

When I went to MadCap in March we started making connections months before the actual retreat. We tweeted, emailed, texted. It was so lovely to be able to put a face to names once we were all in Lyles, Tennessee. These people have become some of my favorite in the world. A few weeks ago when the next group of Aspiring Authors were getting their confirmations I was pretty jealous because I knew that they were about to get into.

Lately, I’ve been supported by some of my agents other clients. We cheer each other on, hold each other up, and keep demanding the best from each other. Mostly we talk about ways to make our agent cry (but in the best way possible).

And here in the non-cyber world I have a group of friends who write with me. We try to do it weekly, but that doesn’t always work out. And we all write different things, creative non-fiction, adult literary fiction, new adult, picture books. But, we all write. And we sometimes just whine about how hard writing is. Some of us are members of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and I met them at my regional conference. I went there only knowing one other person and felt like I made so many connections when I left.

These are my small circles. These people are the people that encourage me. They challenge me to be my most authentic self with my writing. I’m grateful for each of these people and the friendship they have encouraged. Writing can be so solitary sometime, that having them around makes it seem less lonely.

Writing Goals

When I am actively working on a project, the first draft at least, I set up weekly goals for myself of things I want to cover in the week. I do this on Tuesdays because it’s my first day to have “office” hours when I don’t have children to tend to.

So, on Tuesday I take out my outline which I’ve done on notecards and taped into a notebook. I look at it. And I compare what I’ve already written. Sometimes something I’d planned on doing has already been written previously and unless it needs reiteration for story purposes, I don’t have to write it again. I take out my favorite pink dry erase marker and I write the weeks goals on the whiteboard behind my head.

I like goals. I like seeing where I’m going and how I’m going to get there. I know that sometimes things happen and I don’t hit my mark. So, I try to be easy with myself. The theater person in me, or maybe just my personality that has been refined by years of professional theater, I have a hard time being late to things. Even deadlines I set for myself.

Do you set weekly goals for yourself? If so what do they look like? If you don’t, what your way of tracking your progress and staying on course?

 

Things That I Love Right Now

 

I love a good list!

  • So, I really love my writer friends from all over. My MadCap crew, my Lucky 13 folks, and the writers I’m getting to know from the YA Bootcamp I’m participating in.
  • My Real Life Writer Friends. We all write in different genres and have completely different style. But, I love just sitting in coffee shops with them and writing. They don’t care if I don’t talk. And actually probably prefer I shut up so we can all write.
  • Audiobooks. When my brain is unable to function because life is too much audiobooks are about the only way I can “read.” I just finished THE RAVEN KING (GO READ THIS SERIES) and CINDER (I’m behind on this one). Both have been really great books and books that I’ve enjoyed distractions with.
  • Twitter. Because of the above mentioned attention span issues, Twitter has been perfect for me. I can typically think in 140 characters or GIFs. Are on Twitter? Find me! @KatiTheWriter (also that on Instagram but I mostly use that for selfies and my kids).
  • Podcasts. I really love various NPR podcasts. Embedded is my new favorite. But I regularly listen to Pop Culture Happy Hour, Ask Me Another, Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me, and Theater People Podcast. I used to listen to Writing Excuses and still find it valuable, but I like longer episodes.
  • Good new for people! Lately some friends have gotten good news, book deals, news from friends who are on submission, friends that have gotten into writing programs. Just good news for friends.
  • And ACTUALLY WRITING. Writing a few thousand words when I get the chance. And it makes me happy. I’m trying this thing where if the words aren’t coming on once scene, I skip to the first one that makes me excited. I write it. I’ll fill in the gaps later.

So, these are things making me happy! What about you?

Listen To Your Mother

Last Wednesday I had the privilege of being a part of North Carolina’s cast of Listen to Your Mother. I found out I was cast in this in January? I think? It was somewhere around that time. I had a friend (my Mom Best Friend Forever, Jen) in last years cast and she really encouraged me to audition.

I was an actor many years ago. I have been a public speaker for as long as I can remember. 90% of the time I’m more comfortable in front of a crowd, telling a story, than I am any other time. I actively enjoy this type of thing. So, I figured, why not audition? The worst that happens is I don’t get in, I write something else, and I try again.

But, I got in.

I got cast in my local show with a story about my oldest daughter that I really loved. It was funny and spoke, at the heart, about how parenting as a disabled parent is just a little different. Not harder or incredibly difficult, just different.

And between my first rehearsal (right after MadCap) and my second, my own mother died. And I wondered for just a minute if I should do this. But, before I even got to Georgia where my family was starting the planning process and grieving, my sisters from the cast had reached out to me. They had surrounded me with love and gave me strength.

And I also knew my mom would expect me to do this.

My next rehearsal was the tech rehearsal the night before the show. I got to the theater early, hoping to ease back in. My body knew what to do. The theater had been my home for many years. My heart was (is) just barely holding together, stitched together with the thinnest threads, and I was afraid I would crumble under these stories of Mamas and our journeys.

I knew that several of the stories would be unbearable. I knew that Caroline’s brave story about the loss of her daughter at birth would pick and prick at those threads. I knew that Stephanie’s evocative story about her mother’s smoking would resonate deeply in those cracked lines, my own mother a smoker. But, it’s was Beth’s sweet story about her mother Barbara (my mom’s name) that slit all of those tiny threads holding my heart in place. I wept openly and grief poured from me as I tried to hold it in check.

The next night. I’d spent the whole day not thinking. If I don’t think much past the moment, then my brain doesn’t say things like, “Hey, let’s call Mom.” So, I did my best all day not to think. I was getting ready when a sweet friend called. She called to give me love. To tell me how proud she was that I was doing this.

And I cried. Not the ugly sobs of grief, but the tears of someone who was feeling mightily loved.

But, I did not weep during the show. Not that anyone would have cared, but it was something I wanted to do. I wanted to be able to listen to my sisters stories and just be so proud of the work they were sharing. Of the bravery and courage I was witnessing on the stage that night.

And I wanted to kill it. I wanted to be brave in that moment. I wanted to make people laugh and relate and mostly laugh.

And I did.

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All pictures courtesy of my amazing friend Jess Rotenberg. She did my amazing “foot” shot and my headshots. She is just wonderful.

Things That Are Hard

Where have I been?

I’m going to be real. I’m going to be honest and vulnerable and it’s all going to suck.

On April 13, my Mama died.

I hate writing those words. I detest them. My heart hates that I have to write them and wishes that I could write almost anything else. But, there it is.

It’s Mother’s Day Weekend and I no longer have a Mama to spoil and share it with.

So that’s where I’ve been. It’s been difficult for me to think of coming to this space and writing about anything other than my Mama. How could I write about writing or my process when every thought I’ve had for the last three weeks has been tinged with the fact that my Mama is no longer here to share these moments and milestones with me?

Grief is hard.

And I am terrible at it.

I have a very natural optimistic personality. I am very Scarlett O’Hara in my approach to life in the, “I’ll think about that tomorrow…” kind of way. But, sometimes with grief you have to let it sit on you. You have to let it hold you heart and squeeze. And you have to admit that there is no right answer and no easy fix for this problem.

Grief just hurts. And the only thing that’s going to help it is time.

I know because of my own penchant for optimism and joy that I won’t be able to leave this post up on it’s own too long. I hate to leave anything too sad up for too long. But, if I didn’t write this, if I didn’t share what is actually going on in my life, it wouldn’t be fair. Not to you. Not to me. And not to my Mama.

I want to give all of us a space to share memories of our Mama’s whether they’re still here to celebrate the day or not.

My Mama… my earliest memory of her is her playing hide and seek with me. I was a toddler. No bigger than my own Eleanor. And we played hide and seek. She was hiding next to this curio cabinet that was in our kitchen and she surprised me from beside it. It is one of my happiest memories. I remember the way my belly jumped in excitement when she grabbed me up and tickled me.