Hire me. Or not. Whatever. No worries, it’s cool.

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After reading Lauren of The Thinking Closet‘s amazing guide on how to revamp your About page, I thought I’d give it a go. However, I somehow ended up adding a Hire Me page instead because, you know, I need the work.

I still plan to revamp my About page following Lauren’s great advice. You should too! Not that there’s anything wrong with your About page, I’m sure it’s lovely and insightful, but I think Lauren sheds some light on how to bring that little bio some personality. Go check it out!

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Goodnight Moon, Goodnight Wyatt

Dear Wyatt,

It wasn’t until late last night that I realized my mistake. When you sat up in your crib and cried, I sent your dad back in to your room so that I could get Mia to bed. This means that we read a book, say prayers and listen to music as I lay with her while she drifts off to sleep. This is how it’s always been.

In the great green room

there was a telephone

and a red balloon…

I’m sorry that you and Luke get cheated out of a bedtime routine as intimate as your sister’s.

and a picture of

the cow jumping over the moon…

I’m sorry that our evenings are so chaotic that by the time I think about reading a book you’re both arching your backs in our arms, yearning for the familiar landing of your beds.

And three little bears sitting on chairs

And two little kittens and a pair of mittens…

I’m sorry that the two of you haven’t yet figured out that you’re not the other’s enemy when it comes to my time or my affection or my arms or my lap.

And a comb and a brush and a bowl full of mush and a quiet old lady who was whispering hush…

Someday you will learn that I have room for you both — that I will make room for you both — but for now the constant friction between you (at least in matters where I’m concerned) makes it difficult to do anything intimate or quiet or routine-like in any way.

Goodnight room.

Good night moon.

Good night cow jumping over the moon.

Perhaps you’ve caught on before Luke, or perhaps Luke just doesn’t care, but about a week ago you figured out that life goes on outside your slumbering room. And so you cried and you didn’t stop until I slipped back in and we read Goodnight Moon by flashlight, Luke’s rhythmic breathing providing a soundtrack in the background.

Good night stars.

Usually a whir of energy and light in all your toddler glory, you were still and quiet, fingering the corner of a blanket as I read.

Good night air.

And then I closed the book, turned off the flashlight and laid you back down. I slipped back out of your room, and the next time I heard your voice it was morning.

Good night noises everywhere.

And so a routine began. You always cry now and I picture you waiting for me, for your story, for your last whispered words before sleep sets in. This is all you want from me. And yet, last night I forgot.

Looking back, your cries were harder and more wrought with frustration than usual, even when your dad went in to try to comfort you. You waited for me, wanted me, watched for me and eventually, you fell asleep.

It was later, after your sister and I had long since completed our bedtime routine and your dad and I watched the Oscars and turned off the TV, that I realized my mistake. I don’t know how I forgot but I did. And so I tiptoed into your room and whispered,

I’m sorry.

xoxo,

Mommy

Call yourself a writer and stick to your story

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I’m a writer. I write because I can’t not write. I think like a writer. I read like a writer. I live like a writer. When I’m lucky enough to enjoy some “me” time, I don’t hit the mall or the spa. I lock myself away in my office with a hot cup of tea and I write, or I research, or I read. I don’t watch TV (hardly), I write. I don’t talk on the phone (much), I write. I write because I can’t not write.

I’ve written for magazines, I have poems published in anthologies, I’ve authored a biography, but yet when people ask me what I do I never say I’m a writer. Why? Because I have yet to publish a book of my own creation. Which is a pretty silly excuse to not own up to the writer title, but I feel…unaccomplished. When I’m hard on myself I think that I want to be a writer but I’m not really a writer. Not yet anyway.

My mom wrote this (below) and sent it to me a while back. When I go through phases like the one I’m in now, where life sucks every minute from my day and ounce of energy from my body and I feel myself drifting farther and farther away from actually being a writer, I dig this out and read it. (There’s a part where she speaks about the ever-elusive cover letter, also called a query letter, and I’ll be posting a how-to / what-not-to-do on that soon.)

I’ve become aware of a lot of new (for me) blogs out there, and a lot of their authors have confessed to wanting to write a book or are in the process of writing one. I thought this might be of some help to all of us, a little reminder that we are writers no matter where we are in the road to publication.

P.S. This is a new(ish) book from my mom Rebecca Kai Dotlich.

P.P.S. This one, co-authored with the incomparable Jane Yolen, comes out March 1.

CALL YOURSELF A WRITER AND STICK TO YOUR

STORY

 by

 Rebecca Kai Dotlich

 

Are you a writer?

Across cities, prairies, mountains and meadows, I can hear you say it; from skyscrapers, schools, cafes and farms, I can hear you say it; the unsure, quiet, whispered, halfhearted yes. I know, because I can hear the echo of my own yes from years ago, before I was published, before I felt I could proudly and assuredly say, I am a writer.

But somewhere along the way I started picking up courage. It was like picking up clothes off the floor: first a shirt, then a sock, then another, little by little, until the basket is full. Maybe it was something I felt, maybe something someone said, maybe (and probably) something I read, some words of support another writer wrote. So I am writing these words to you, in hopes they help you to pick up your own courage:

Call yourself a writer and stick to your story.

No wavering, no hesitation, no embarrassed or halfhearted yes. And while you’re working on this new sense of conviction, keep these reminders in your heart-pocket:

A writer writes. Alone. That’s what a writer does.

In a room, at a desk, in a chair, on a tablet, at a computer, a writer writes. Looking out a window, through a notebook, across the yard or the library shelves, a writer writes. Chances are your husband or wife doesn’t, your neighbor doesn’t, your best friend doesn’t. So don’t expect them to understand, they won’t. It is a solitary job.

We are thinker, tinker, creator, researcher, doer, reviser, approver, editor, marketer; we are all these things. No one to answer to, no one to fix it, no one to turn to, unless of course you belong to a writer’s group, which is a great idea if you are a writer who both needs and appreciates feedback, but be prepared to spend time and thought giving a fair bit of it yourself. If you can do this, run to the nearest group and beg your way in, and if there isn’t one formed, get on the phone and start one.

The life of a writer can be a lonely and often frustrating business. But it can be so joyful that you can’t wait to wake up each morning and have a go at it again. And you will, no doubt, have both of these emotions, depending on the day, if you call yourself a writer and stick to your story.

Create a space for your writing.

I have now turned a spare bedroom into my writing room, complete with file drawers and shelves for my books, a long narrow desk for my computer, along with a printer, bulletin board, lamps and paperwork.

But years ago, when I started, I used the kitchen table between meals. From there I went to a desk in an unfinished, unheated basement with cobwebs for company. I’ve heard of writers who live in small spaces using a pantry for their writing nook. (Goodbye soup!) I saw one writer build doors in front of a little opening in a wall; the doors opened to a computer when it was time to write. Put a small table in a corner of your kitchen. My friend bought a used desk at a garage sale, then pulled out her dresser to fit it into her small bedroom. Some writers write in a garage with a space heater and gloves. (My basement space required both.) The places are endless. But have a place. It’s where you are a writer.

READ.

Read more than you write. And especially read the genre you are writing in, or would like to write in. Immerse yourself in it. Be a detective — what works? What are publishers buying? Be mindful of opening lines. Look at the way paragraphs and chapters have transitioned. How do characters come alive, and how are their personalities formed in the reader’s minds. Study dialogue, structure. Picture books have certain rhythms and a cadence that falls across the page. Poetry takes many forms.

KEEP NOTEBOOKS.

Keep scraps of paper with kernels of ideas in a folder, a box, a basket, a coffee can. Notebooks keep your jumbled thoughts together, and often hold unexpected surprises. (The perfect word, the beginning of a picture book, a bit of dialogue.) Notebooks help you to find and keep treasured nuggets of thought you might otherwise lose. I keep quite a few notebooks going – favorite words, book ideas, poem starters, things I’ve observed on a walk, an overheard bit of conversation. I keep scraps of paper in a wicker basket, (and in my purse, and my robe pockets, and the car, … ) and rummage through them now and again to see if maybe, just maybe, a light goes on. Sometimes not, but sometimes . . .

REVISE.

Sand that splintered board, polish that rough edge. Writers often forget to let their writing sit for a few days, or at least while they sleep. We are an impatient bunch. I hear you laughing. Isn’t it true? We should have our own chapter in anthropology textbooks. We feed off of immediate gratification, a state of finished-ness. We despair over empty mailboxes and unreturned phone calls. We do strange dances and sing ourselves praises after long, lonely hours of cobbling words together in the cozy security of our cave. So splash a little cold water on your cheeks and dig in; cut, slash, rewrite, rework, smooth out. I sometimes revise a 12 line poem more than twenty-five times. A picture book goes through countless revisions.

STUDY the market carefully.

Pull down books from bookstore shelves – what’s new in the category you are writing? What publishers are publishing what? What makes them work? And magazines: go to the library and look at every issue for the past year or two. What did they publish for the winter season? Do they seem to like holiday or nature themes for December? What is the word length of their stories or poems? Write each magazine and get sample copies. Read Publisher’s Weekly. Read reviews. Get yourself a copy of the newest Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market, published by Writer’s Digest Books. There are many similar books on the market too.

REMEMBER to send a cover letter with your manuscript.

Keep it short and simple. If you’ve studied their list, mention a book you admire. Get the editor’s name right. (Call the publisher if you have to and inquire.) Give the title of your work and mention the type of book it is: novel, middle grade novel, I Can Read book, poetry collection, picture book, non-fiction, etc.

Don’t ever mention that your grandchild loves it, even if he does.

Don’t mention that you know of a great illustrator who is starving, even if you do.

And don’t send a manuscript with coffee stains. (You’d be surprised.)

And include an SASE, or you won’t ever hear from them. And if you don’t know what an SASE is, you need to read more than you have on writing and publishing. And I say this with compassion but firmness.

LIVE like a writer.

LISTEN. READ. WRITE. REVISE. OBSERVE.

Collect words. Study the markets. Attend workshops and conferences. Join a writer’s group. Spend more hours in libraries and bookstores than grocery stores. Explain to your family that macaroni and cheese can be a meal.

DON’T TAKE REJECTION PERSONALLY.

Sometimes your manuscript isn’t a good fit for that particular house or magazine, or even for that editor. Maybe he or she just accepted something similar. Or it could also be you didn’t study their guidelines well enough, and your ms. wouldn’t work for that list. It could be (and you might not ever know this) that it almost made it. Almost. A word that is both heartbreaking and electrifying. And yes, it could also be you need to look at your work with a critical eye and — breathe — revise. Again. View rejection as a challenge, a nudge to try harder, change, think, improve, target your audience and or book publisher or magazine with more focus and a renewed spirit. I know editors with a wonderful, edgy, offbeat sense of humor. And some who are extremely tender at heart. These two editors will naturally love different manuscripts. These are things you won’t know. Luck sometimes plays a part.

Don’t give up.

Not if you really, reallyreallyreally, long to be a writer, to scoop out those thoughts and words and stories and poems from your soul, your brain, your heart, and get them on paper. Don’t do it. Don’t quit. Don’t even think about it. Why do you think the stars are there, if not for you to hang your hat on.

Give yourself permission to fail. But give yourself permission to write. Call yourself a writer. And stick to your story.

Let’s get linky

This picture of Wyatt has nothing to do with this post. He's just so stinking cute here.

This picture of Wyatt has nothing to do with this post. He’s just so stinking cute here. (Pay no attention to the drool dribbling from his chin.)

It was a long weekend. It was a cold weekend. It was a long, cold weekend. (I don’t know why, but I channeled Elephant and Piggie’s voices as I wrote that.) Which is to say, I got sucked into the black hole of the great WWW this weekend. Below you’ll find some links to random bits and pieces I collected along the way. You’re welcome.

Love these solar system lollipops, which can be found here.

8 winter hobbies to nurture at home. Because let’s face it: We’ve still got some time before we can just push the kids outside and wipe our hands clean of them. (I kid, I kid. Kind of.)

The third book in the Bridget Jones series publishes in November (yay!). Here’s what you can expect from Ms. Jones when we reconnect with her over a decade since we last heard from her.

I love reading about other people’s lives and stories, and I especially love hearing about writers’ routines, so this site is pretty awesome.

Can your kid handle the pressure?

I don’t like ham but for some reason a hot ham and cheese sandwich always sounds appealing. Until I try one and remember that I don’t like ham. However, I think I’ll have to give this recipe a try.

The window washers at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh are super heroes. How awesome are they?

Are Spanx good or evil? What do you think? I say good. I have nerve damage on my c-scar and can’t stand material rubbing against it, especially jeans, so I wear some version of high-waisted Spanx almost every day. I quite love them actually.

Deconstructing Barbie looks like more fun than actually playing with Barbie.

Sea salt and nutella fudge? Don’t mind if I do.

ThredUP, an online kids clothing consignment shop that buys and sells practically new clothing.

What about you? If you made any link worthy discoveries over the weekend I’d love to hear about them!

 

 

I do not love you… (a Valentine’s Day post)

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way

than this: where I does not exist, nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.

The title of this post comes from the poem above — Sonnet XVII: I do not love you…, by Pablo Neruda. I’m fairly certain Mr. Neruda wasn’t writing to his children because I don’t think he ever had any, but for me, these words speak so profoundly of the unconditional love I feel for my children.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where

For a brief time after we had Mia, I thought my heart had about as much love as it could handle. How could it possibly expand to fit more? Oh, how little did I know.

I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride

(You can read it in its entirety here.)

Luke & Wyatt Valentine's Day 2013

Also, have you seen the tumblr, Vintage Loves? Don’t you wish you knew their stories? I’d love to use these as writing prompts for fictional love letters between the couples. Hmm…I might have to think about that.

Happy Valentine’s Day!