Quote of the Day

Daniel Tiger. Photo by Greg Dunlap from Stockholm, Sweden
via Wikicommons

If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.”–Fred Rogers

It’s been a tough month for a lot of wonderful people I know, so I wanted to share this fantastic quote by one of the all-time best people. No matter what you’re going through right now, remember that you matter to so many other people.

More about Mister Rogers here.

Bad Reviews as Read by Children’s Book Authors

Normally I don’t approve of authors responding to bad reviews, but this is too good to pass up:

To be fair, I’d be a little concerned about that lion in the rain, too.

It’s a good reminder that even well-respected and established authors, who get lots of positive reviews, also get some bad reviews. Just gotta shrug it off, smile, and keep going.

(via bookshelves of doom)

This Year’s Words

It’s not a poem about New Year’s, but T.S. Eliot’s “Little Gidding” is about chance and transformation and the old and new. These lines feel particularly appropriate for New Year’s Day:

(image: Powell’s)

The new year is a natural time to start thinking about change and possibility and transformation. With The Chance You Won’t Return coming out in April, 2014 is primed to be a year of big changes. So excited to share them all with you and my fellow ’14 debut authors!

And in case you need to see my enthusiasm for 2014 in gif form (of course you do), head over to OneFour KidLit.

Dusting off the 2013 Resolutions

The end of the year is a time for looking back and contemplating growth and all that good stuff. In this looking back, I realized I actually posted about some resolutions/goals at the beginning of the year. (Way to keep on top of those, Annie.) Okay, so they were more things I was excited about than resolutions, but let’s see how real life panned out:

Then: Getting to know more of my fellow 2014 debut authors through OneFour KidLit. Our blog is now live, so I’ll be sharing thoughts, experiences, and (hopefully) funny videos there as well. Make sure to check it out.
Now: I’ve gotten to know several of the OneFours, and hoping to get to know more, especially now that the blog is about to kick into full 2014 gear.

Then: Attending at least two retreats/conferences.
Now: Check! I went to a few NESCBWI gatherings and flew down to Savannah for the first ever Fourteenery retreat. Overall, lots of writing time and good times with some amazing writers.

Then: Taking real author photos.
Now: Finally did it! Check some samples out at my Facebook page.

Then: Finishing up QotA edits.
Now: The now-renamed TCYWR is fully edited and out in the world in ARC-form! I had a pretty fantastic editorial experience all around.

Then: Going full steam ahead into the next project.
Now: Still working through the next project, but much further along thanks to my lovely critique group.

Then: Going to more concerts (as inspiration for the next project).
Now: Didn’t get to as many as I’d hoped, but maybe I can extend this over to next year.

Then: Reading more and keeping better track of what I read.
Now: Got in some great reading time this year, but also could have torn myself away from the blogs a little more. As for keeping better track of what I read…well, there’s always next year!

Then: Baking more bread.
Now: Tried a couple new recipes. Things got a little funky on the apartment front, but I’m ready to try all sorts of good bread baking in the new kitchen.

Then: Finally putting up the rest of our pictures on the wall instead of stacking frames on the futon.
Now: Well, at least those frames didn’t have to get taken off the wall. Onto new walls!

Then: Going to lots of readings and literary events in the area. (So lucky that so many authors live in/visit Boston.)
Now: Didn’t get to as many as I would have liked, but I went to the Boston Book Festival, got to meet Sarah Dessen and help celebrate the launch of Golden Boy.

Overall a pretty successful year. Here’s to lots more adventures in 2014!

Financial Planning

When I first sold my book to Candlewick, a few people asked me if I would be quitting my job to write full time. My reaction:

Most people I know who are artists–writers, illustrators, actors, musicians, etc.–don’t make a living from their art. Most have day jobs or do temp work or freelance. Recently, I came across a couple of posts that brought this issue to mind.

The first is more from a theatrical perspective, but I think it holds true for writers of any genre. Long talks about how a successful society values its artists and, although I’m not sure that we can recreate the Renaissance, it’s good to remember that people like Michaelanglo weren’t “dangling from the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel ‘for the experience.’” Artists, just like anyone, need to eat and have a roof over their heads and maybe wear a sweater when it’s cold out. As much as society loves the image of a tortured, starving artist, I think most of us do our best work when we’re not stressing about if we can afford to go to the doctor.

Similarly, the second article looks at the financial realities for writers and how we talk about these financial realities. Bauer says that we can’t pretend that having a financial safety net (like a successful spouse or family fortune) doesn’t matter for artists, and that it’s detrimental to pretend that all it takes to survive as a writer is a little gumption and selling a magazine article every so often.

I remember talking with a couple of fellow kidlit authors recently, and this exact issue came up–if your only job is writing, you’re either a) wildly successful or b) in a position where you don’t have to worry about where your health benefits are coming from. That’s not to say that this is bad or somehow makes you less of a writer. If your family can do it, that’s fantastic. But we need to acknowledge that this is the reality for writers, and maybe consider what that means for writers and artists who don’t have that kind of safety net.

Last year, Laurie Halse Anderson (a hugely talented YA author and, in my opinion, one of the leaders in the field) had a great post about money and writing. It was a major relief to see that, even after publications and awards, didn’t quit her day job to write full time for years. I like seeing writers be honest about this kind of thing. It’s a hard job and most people don’t get rich from it. (And if you do, more power to you.) The reality of being a writer is far removed from the idea most people have of being a writer.

Right now, I’m really lucky to have a job that is generally fulfilling, enjoyable, and lets me go to the dentist every so often. I also have a very supportive husband and family. If I ever get to be a full time writer, that would be fantastic. But for now I know that I’m a lot better off than many extremely talented writers.

I don’t have any answers for how we can reallocate more money to the arts or how we can help writers who are struggling to make ends meet. But I think the more honest we are about these issues, the better. In the meantime, more power to all of you who keep writing, no matter what your financial realities are.

The Twelve Days of Writer’s Christmas

Things I love: gifs and song parodies. How could I resist putting together a writer-themed version of the classic Christmas carol, with corresponding gifs?

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my writing gave to me:

Twelve cups of coffee

Eleven ARCs from authors
Ten writing playlists
Nine cover reveals

Eight swoony kiss scenes
Seven funny retweets
Six pairs of sweatpants

Five critique partners

Four messy first drafts

Three plot hole fixes

Two days ’till deadline

And a retreat with awesome writer friends

Happy holidays, everyone!

Land of 1000 Blog Posts–and a New Facebook Page!

Sometimes I hear writers talk about blogging (and social media in general) like it’s a big chore, and how overwhelming it is, and how it’s a giant time suck. I feel really fortunate in that I genuinely enjoy blogging. I look at it as a fun and easy way to share cool things I find online with lots of people who may find them cool, too. And apparently I’ve come across a lot of cool things to share, because this is my 1000th post. Thank you to all my followers and readers for helping me get to this point. I know at least some of you aren’t spam-bots, and I’ve really appreciated your likes and comments. You guys are the best!

To celebrate reaching 1000 posts, I’m launching my brand-new author Facebook page. Because one good social media turn deserves another! Follow along for more fun links, photos, live Q&As, and (hopefully) hilarity. Right now I have up a few new author photos–that’s right, I am a human being and not just one profile picture!

Thanks again to my wonderful readers and followers. You keep me going, and I’m psyched to share another 1000 posts with you.

Marry a Writer

Two years ago, I was doing this:

Since then, we’ve gone on adventures, shared jokes and hilarious cat videos, and cooked lots of tasty meals. We’re both writers, so these two years have also included evenings in separate rooms, typing away. Sometimes people ask what it’s like to be married to another writer, and so far it’s working out pretty well for us. Here are my reasons why you should marry* a writer:

  • Marry a writer because he knows that sometimes you need to go into the other room/a coffee shop/the library and not talk for a while, and that doesn’t mean you’re ignoring him.
  • Marry a writer because she loves books and moving in together will mean expanding your home library. (Note: this means you need more bookshelves than you’ll think you need.)
  • Marry a writer because he understands the anxiety of submitting work and the disappointment of receiving rejection letters.
  • Marry a writer because she’ll brainstorm and talk seriously about your characters and plots with you.
  • Marry a writer because he understands it’s a real job. Even if you need an additional day job to help pay for things like rent and food.
  • Marry a writer because she won’t get weirded out by Google searches like “how long does it take for a body to decompose?” and “arsenic poisoning symptoms.”
  • Marry a writer because he’ll join you at readings and book signings.
  • Marry a writer because she’ll put you in her book acknowledgments.
  • Marry a writer because he’ll spend hours with you at a bookstore and not ask “can we go now?” every ten minutes or side-eye that pile of books you’re going to buy.
  • Marry a writer because she knows that sometimes revising takes priority over vacuuming or making something other than cereal for dinner.
  • Marry a writer because he won’t get offended if you have to squeeze in some writing time during holidays.
  • Marry a writer because she can remind you that, even when the writing is hard, you need to keep going because you’re a writer.
  • Marry a writer because you’ll get to read/hear his work and feel so proud that the person you love makes amazing art.

But most importantly, you should marry someone who supports you and your writing. Who knows that this is your passion and your work, and loves that this is a major part of who you are. I know lots of people think pain and suffering makes good art, but I’m inclined to think that love and support are at the top of the list.

*And my “marry” I mean “share your heart with.” Forget traditional gender roles and structures.

Loving Writing When It’s Hard

The last few weeks have been stressful and busy, and the next few weeks are going to be much the same. Which means I feel like:

Even things I enjoy, like writing, feel like a chore:

I recently came across this quote from Susan Orlean on writing, which seems particularly helpful when I’m stressed and when the writing is hard:

“You have to simply love writing, and you have to remind yourself often that you love it.”

It’s easy to love writing when the words are flowing and you have the time to focus on your craft. But sometimes you have to remind yourself that you love it and that it’s worth it, even if you only get a few words down at a time.

So if you’re having a rough time and feel like the words aren’t flowing, try to remind yourself that you love writing, even when it’s hard and you feel like you can’t get anything on paper. Loving writing when it’s hard is when you’re at your most writerly.