Five for Friday

Hello, friends, and Happy Friday. I just finished my antibiotics today (yay!), so hopefully the phlegmmy coughing will (finally finally finally) stop soon. In the meantime, here are a few choice links for you:

  1. I can’t get enough of McMansion Hell. It’s a truly addictive (and horrifying) feast for the eyes, and a great lesson in architecture.
  2. As I’ve been convalescing, I’ve also been binging. Highly recommended: One Mississippi, Longmire, Transparent, Fleabag, and And Then There Were None. Next in my queue: LUKE CAGE.
  3. I’ve been reading How Not to Die (so far, so good) and¬†Emotional Agility (just purchased; hope to report shortly)
  4. I knew there was a book called Crap Taxidermy, but didn’t realize it started with this glorious (and continuing) Twitter feed.
  5. Now that autumn’s in the air, I want to eat apples and bake bread.
Have a great weekend!ūüôā

Making It Happen

Hello, friends. So, as I mentioned on Monday, I ended up taking a vacation last month, and then getting a terrible cold on said vacation. Because I can never leave well enough (or sick enough) alone, my cold morphed into viral bronchitis, which then morphed into pneumonia. I just started taking antibiotics ‚ÄĒ fingers crossed that they clear things up FAST.

Unfortunately, my revision of the second Bland Sisters story was due last month, when my bronchitis was at its worst; while my wonderful editor did give me a few extra days beyond my original deadline, I still felt awful and foggy-headed, AND it turned out that my husband was away for the whole weekend prior to my revised due date. I ended up hiring a babysitter for the duration, locked myself in the bedroom with my laptop and a big box of tissues, and got to work.

This is not to say I didn’t take care of myself. I ate lots of soup and applesauce, and took naps whenever I could. Also, I stopped caring about the fact that the house was messy, or that I never really unpacked our suitcases from our trip, or that I was basically living in my pajamas.¬†BUT. I also knew I had a job to do, and that job was writing. So I summoned all the physical and mental strength I had, and I made it happen.

Many (many!) years ago,¬†I ran for Student Council President in high school. My slate’s slogan was “We won’t just watch things happen ‚ÄĒ we’ll make things happen.” Since then, “make it happen” has been my mantra. It’s what I say when I really want something. It’s what I say when I’m facing any kind of adversity. It’s why I get frustrated when I encounter people who live passively, as if they’re sitting by a river, waiting for whatever they want to float by. Sorry, friends, it doesn’t work that way. Not only do you have to jump in, you have to be willing to swim against the current. You have to be willing to get swept away. You have to know you’re going to get knocked down, over and over and over again, and still get back up each and every time. Sometimes, you’ll get back up and realize your bathing suit is missing and feel like everyone is laughing at you. Sometimes, the water will feel SO COLD and it will get into your lungs and you’ll start coughing and sputtering and feel like you’re maybe drowning. But still, even then.

Come on in, friends. The water’s fine. (Well, it seems fine now. But if and when it isn’t, you’re strong and you’re ready and your bathing suit is securely fastened.) Let’s make it happen.

The Weekly Peek

Hello, friends, and Happy Monday. How are you? I hope autumn has been a lovely, pumpkin-spice-flavored dream for you so far.

As to how I’m doing…well. My pneumonia-like symptoms went away a couple of weeks ago, so I declined to seek medical attention at the very point when I probably should have. Because last week, it came back big time ‚ÄĒ if it were a movie, it would be called COUGH 2: NEVER STOP COUGHING (ALSO, HOPE YOU LIKE PHLEGM). In addition, I started experiencing seasonal migraines, which left me wanting to pull out my own eyeballs to relieve the pressure, and only went away yesterday. And not to be tmi, but my hormones have been a nightmare, and my cramps are OFF THE CHAIN. I’m having a chest xray tomorrow to confirm a¬†pneumonia diagnosis; looking forward to being prescribed some aggressive antibiotics so I can shut down this phlegm party once and for all.

In spite of all of this, I do have a few updates for you. As follows:

Somehow, I managed to hand in my final revision of the next Bland Sisters story. More about this experience on Wednesday…as long as I can get some antibiotics before then.

Last week, we received a review of The Jolly Regina in Kirkus, and (relatively speaking) it is pretty darn enthusiastic! The final line says it all: “‘Shanghai’ and ‘charming’ don’t usually go together, but here they do.”

Good news: I finally got a spot at renowned children’s books retreat Kindling Words East!¬†Bad news: unfortunately, I won’t be able to attend. We just took our (remaining) cat to the vet this weekend, and I ended up having to spring for quite a few tests and was told that some expensive kitty dental procedures are on the horizon, all of which pretty much sapped my discretionary fund. Oh, well…there’s always next year. And I have quite a few friends on the KWE waitlist, so I will be happy knowing that my misfortune has led to someone else getting good news.

So, *coughcough* how’s YOUR *coughcoughcough* week looking *cough*?



The Weekly Peek

Hello, friends, and Happy Monday. I’d love to give you a full update on everything that’s happened over the past week, but I am actually SICK SICK SICK. While my family and I were in Maine, we all came down with terrible chest colds, and it seems as if mine has morphed into another bout of pneumonia. I’m hoping to receive some delicious antibiotics ¬†so I can be on the mend and back in the blogging saddle soon.

Be well, and enjoy the last few days of summer!

Five for Friday

Hello, friends, and Happy Friday. So, I’ll be taking a little break from blogging in the coming week, because I will be 1. Celebrating my birthday on Sunday (yay!) and 2. On vacation (double yay!)!

Of course, I’m not about to leave you high and dry, so here are a few fun Friday links. Enjoy!

  1. I didn’t realize this guy and I had such close birthdays ‚ÄĒ all this time, we could have been drinking Champagne together! And¬†did you know his first name was Aloysius?
  2. This looks phenomenal.
  3. I can’t stop looking at these.
  4. Are you an educator or librarian, and need some ideas re: how to fund author visits? Look no further.
  5. You’re welcome.

Have a great weekend ‚ÄĒ and week!

Travels with Shame and Inadequacy

Last fall, as I was drafting the second book in the Unintentional Adventures of the Bland Sisters trilogy, I read BIG MAGIC by Elizabeth Gilbert. (Go get yourself a copy RIGHT NOW. I’ll wait.)

BIG MAGIC is tremendously inspiring and comforting, as it looks at the creative process from an almost spiritual point of view. On at least one occasion, Elizabeth Gilbert name-checks Brené Brown, so when I finished the book, I decided to check her out. Boy, am I glad I did.

Bren√© Brown is a researcher, educator, and public speaker who specializes in topics of shame and inadequacy. Those two have been my jam (and by “jam” I mean “bane of my existence”) for as long as I can remember, so Bren√© has become like my¬†brilliant, golden, straight-talkin’ angel.

In particular, I’ve read I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn’t), The Gifts of Imperfection, and Daring Greatly. Though the first deals primarily with shame, the second with imperfection and inadequacy, and the third with vulnerability and courage (i.e. how shame and our fears of inadequacy and imperfection hamper our ability to be emotionally vulnerable/courageous), all of these issues are so intertwined that it helps to read all three back-to-back. They are The Lord of the Rings of emotional healing.

I’ve also watched both of Bren√© Brown’s TED talks on the power of vulnerability and listening to shame, which are among the most popular talks TED has produced. And they’re not specifically for artists, so even if you don’t consider yourself a creative person, please watch them. Because, unfortunately, shame and inadequacy are equal-opportunity tormentors.

Of course, I still struggle, and I probably always will. When you’ve been conditioned to feel that what other people think of you is more important than what you think about yourself, that failing or¬†being imperfect¬†(or even just making choices that don’t meet¬†someone else’s standards) makes you a bad/unlovable/inadequate/shameful person, and that vulnerability is weakness, life (and especially a creative life)¬†can seem¬†joyless, if not completely impossible.¬†I’m grateful I’ve been able to¬†refresh my perspective, whether as a byproduct of¬†trauma (losing my job, being diagnosed with cancer, losing loved ones)¬†or in more benign¬†ways (surrounding myself with supportive friends, seeking therapy, and discovering wise teachers like Elizabeth Gilbert and Bren√© Brown). But those negative emotions will always be a part of me. I can only do what Elizabeth Gilbert advises, regarding fear ‚ÄĒ the feelings of shame and inadequacy might always be in the car with me, but I can’t allow them to drive.

I do have a lot more to say about the emotional side of writing, and the topics of shame and inadequacy and emotional vulnerability/courage in particular; how I deal with them, and how, sometimes, I can’t. In some ways, it’s seemed a bit off-topic (the self-imposed topic being “craft”), but it really is an intrinsic part of my creative process, as much as research and drafting and revision might be. So, do you want to hear more? If so, I¬†am happy to oblige.


The Weekly Peek

Hello, friends, and Happy Monday! How was everyone’s weekend? I returned from my agent’s annual creative retreat (only barely, due to some travel glitches) and spent yesterday running errands, unpacking, and settling back in to home life.

The retreat was amazing, as ever. I reunited with old friends, made quite a few new ones, talked shop, drank a LOT of bubbly (of course), and started a new project. Yep, you heard me right. I just turned in my Bland Sisters 2 revision two weeks ago, and I’m already on to something else. And so it goes. It’s something I’ve never tried before, so it’s in that exciting and fun and hopeful phase. Fingers crossed that it lasts, and that I can make some headway before vacation.

Yes, I am going on vacation! We are going to Camden, Maine, my son’s namesake. If you’ll be in the area, and you’re free on Sunday, I’ll be doing a reading and signing of THE INFAMOUS RATSOS at 1pm at Sherman’s with Ratsos illustrator Matt Myers and brilliant author-illustrator (and Camden native)¬†Chris Van Dusen!

A few things happening here this week…

I just found out that THE INFAMOUS RATSOS was named Rhode Island’s submission for The National Book Festival in Washington, DC! Huzzah!

Recently, I¬†finished DARING GREATLY by Bren√© Brown, and boy oh boy did it resonate. This is the third BB book I’ve read and loved, so this Wednesday, I think I might write a bit about my response to her work. (Next on the docket: I am finishing a book I started and loved a while ago, but set aside for unknown reasons: The Tenth Muse: My Life in Food by Judith Jones (aka the editor who discovered Julia Child, among many other culinary luminaries).

Now that the Bland Sisters 2 revision (and the all-consuming mania a revision brings to my life) is off my plate, I’m trying to get back to a more balanced routine: getting up each¬†morning to work out, taking regular showers (which I’m sure everyone around me will appreciate), eating more healthily (instead of whatever takes the least amount of time to prepare/can reach¬†my mouth easily and still allow me¬†to type), and going to bed at a decent hour. We’ll see how long it lasts…

How’s your week shaping up?