Life – CANCELLED, Blog – ON!

I am not an adaptable person. Not well-suited to keep up with hourly updates on world pandemics or the cancelation of LIFE AS WE KNOW IT.

I tried to keep things normal yesterday with green pee in the toilet for St. Patrick’s Day (CANCELLED), but it turns out that organic powder food dye ends up looking more like Leprechaun Leftovers.

If temperament assessments had been around when I was an infant, I would undoubtedly have been the baby with the rictus, red-faced scream at every change in air temperature or illumination. If my mother denies this and tells you I was a perfect baby, then that just means the damage occurred later, probably in middle school. I shouldn’t say damage. I wish I could claim to be a genius like Willow Chance who uses Counting by 7s to to center herself, meanwhile transforming the lives of everyone around her for the better. My adaptation strategies are much less mathematical and not at all inspirational. I match my underwear to my socks. I rewrite the same list over and over until I don’t have to use white-out tape. I make new rules for my kids to follow. My children now call me “Plague Mama.”

By Holly Goldberg Sloane (2014), cover art by —, sold by my favorite local independent children’s bookseller, Flashlight Books

Unprecedented times in Unpresidented times (YA biography by Martha Brokenbrough). I was already home from work, recovering from ACL reconstructive knee surgery and getting a pretty good hobble on. I took the cancellation of my kids’ school pretty well. Three-plus weeks of spring break?….Well, I’d already started a list of spring cleaning tasks, and having the kids around would only make the list longer. At the park with my kids playing the newly invented game of Eyeball Tag*, I managed not to jump when my phone blared with The Emergency Signal, alerting me to the imminent lockdown order for six Bay Area counties. But when they closed the Library, that was the last crack in my fragile (fake) equanimity. My fractured thinking shattered around one question: who have they got defining “Essential Services,” anyway?

Searing YA biography by Martha Brokenbrough, available at Flashlight Books online

So I have reverted to the one thing that can make sense of these crazy times. (Yes, you can be sure that my underwear matches my shirt or my socks or both – you’ll never not think about that now, but that’s not what I meant.) No, my lifesaver, my link, my sanity and my savior: The Newsletter.

My mom will tell you – and this is true – that when I boxed up all my possessions at age twenty to leave the country for two years as a Peace Corps volunteer (Peace Corps – CANCELED), I packed as though I would never return. I’m pretty sure I designated heirs for my journals (all that middle school ruination, documented). But before I left for the world I didn’t know, my mom and I set up one essential link to keep me tethered to the world I knew: the Newsletter Tree.

Made of trees, literally. Because it was printed on paper. Handwritten by me, on paper, one copy mailed by post to my mom. Who Xeroxed four copies (we all still said Xerox, then), and sent them on to four folks who diligently made their copies, and sent them on, and so on. And people wrote back. Eventually I came home. People I didn’t even know came up to talk to me about things I had written, having been participants in an ancient form of social media. Some of you still have the artifacts of that time, the actual newsletters. While I was gone, email was invented and stamps became a vanity item.

Now that it doesn’t involve handwriting and photocopying and envelope glue and trips to the post office, everyone has a newsletter. I guess they’re called “blogs” these days. So I’m back, the Mom Next Door, blogging and slogging my way through the latest alerts, announcements, closures and kid conflicts. Tomorrow we start the Never Never School (of Witchcraft and Wizardry), which my 13-year old son just calls, “No.” I’ll be keeping track of myself here, along with:

  • Updates on our family’s (mental) health and stories from a household spanning ages 10-72
  • Links for homeschooling, especially in writing, reading, poetry and music (my specialties)
  • Links to great book reviews for children’s literature of all ages
  • Latest scientific or practical information on COVID19 (How to Clean/Disinfect Your Home if someone there is sick)
  • Funny Times for funny times – belly laughs for boosting immunity
  • Good News – the best of humanity as we come together to survive and thrive
  • The Bright Side – counting our blessings in unusual times

Send me a link to your Newsletter – Let’s keep in touch!

*Eyeball Tag post coming soon.

When Rejection is a Good Thing

English: Rejection

English: Rejection (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s been two years since I looked up from nursing my youngest, and realized that soon it would be time to figure out what I was going to do next. On the best of days, I can do about 80% of the stay-at-home parent thing—for the other 20%, everybody had better clear out of my way. We’ve managed fine by finessing our weekly schedule; I get just enough time away to maintain my sanity in this rewarding and challenging role of “mom.” But in four years, both my kids would be in elementary school. The time for me to find something else to do with myself was imminent. Dedicating my education and intelligence to ever more perfect stacks of laundry could not be my destiny.

So two years ago I made a decision. Instead of:

  1. figuring out what I wanted to do next,
  2. updating my training,
  3. getting a job, and
  4. learning to do a new job,

I would instead put all that time and energy into learning how to make money doing what I really love—writing.

There, I’ve said it. My naked ambition is on the table. Don’t worry, I’m not about to start asking you for money (although I don’t promise that I never will). I want to learn how to take the writing I do from the pages of my notebook to the pages in readers’ hands.

So there it is. After a lifetime of writing, I’ve finally owned up to what I am and what I want to be: a writer. A paid writer. The “paid” part is important. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve no interest in the money apart from this: if my writing brings in an income—any income—it justifies my time away from making school lunches and monitoring the bandaid supply.

Decision made, done deal, right? You know the answer to that. But I will say this, the last two years I’ve spent dedicated to this new future I’ve chosen are starting to pay off. I haven’t signed with my dream agent, no book deals, nothing like that. But the firsts are starting to pile up, and that feels good:

  1. First conversation (followed by many more since) in which I feel like my Fictional Husband (FH) understands that I really am a writer, and what that means for us.
  2. First time attending the Book Passage Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Conference (2012), now an annual event in my writing life.
  3. First time joining a writing group of strangers (Temescal Writers, my inspiration and my home).
  4. First solo writing retreat (look for a separate post, coming soon).
  5. First manuscript complete (closely followed by several more).
  6. First time submitting a manuscript to an agent.
  7. First time attending my regional meeting of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), and best of all

My response to this first rejection—a form email from an agency that I greatly admire and was certainly a long shot—might surprise you. Rather than feeling deflated or discouraged, what I felt was…initiated. I am now doing what I want to be doing: writing and working toward publication, with more or less success, depending on my expectations and time frame. I felt liberated. They don’t want it? I am free to find the person who does. I felt excited. Who will get the next shot at collaborating with me on the making of this book?

Being rejected means that I was considered. And that’s a huge accomplishment in my writing life to date. I can live with that, for now.

This article is part of the Writer’s Passage series, chronicling the journey of one writer into the rabbit hole of children’s book publishing.


Related Articles:

Facing the Inevitable Rejection Letter

For Each Story, Somewhere A Reader

Photo credit: T. Voekler

Newspaper Reader; Photo credit: T. Voekler

I am not biting my fingernails. It’s such a little thing, this book of mine, meant for toddlers to chew on. But a select panel of readers are digging Draft 9 out of their mailboxes right now. I feel the tug of all two hundred ninety-seven words, all my hopes and meager skill tied like kite strings to my wrist. I wonder what it is I have managed to write, after all, and I wonder about the people reading it.

Whom can writers trust to give feedback on their work-in-progress? Continue reading