Today is Holocaust Memorial Day. To those who say #Neveragain but support the new White House administration, or to those who didn’t vote for it but don’t feel like it is their battle to fight or perhaps feel that it is too big a battle to fight, this is the moment to speak up. Arguably it is past the moment, but do not underestimate the amount of damage that can still be done, that is actively being planned, the amount of damage that we cannot even imagine yet, and that that “damage” includes death: not just lives lost, because we know where they are and can help, but lives deliberately cast aside and rejected. Refugee lives & American lives. Future American lives. It isn’t all DT & co. either although they are empowering the meanness & smallness in this country, ironically making them grow. Here in Maine our governor has announced that on March 4th our state will no longer provide aid or help resettle refugees. (*offering my hope now that on March 4th we Mainers march forth). Instead all responsibility will shift to Catholic charities. But our federal government has suspended even interviewing refugees right now. This. Is. The. Moment. Your voice matters. Do not doubt that. Call your congressmen and women, your local elected officials. Those calls matter. Get involved. Grow our kindness, our empathy, our compassion, our essential American qualities. Not our fear. Grow our courage. Grow our voice. It’s a moment to be loud. Do so with respect, but don’t doubt for a minute that you can do both. Call it damage control, call it activism, call it goodness, call it faith & practicing your religion, call it an American right and tradition. But call. If you don’t know where to start, pick one thing and call. Do. Act. Reach. Write. Rise. Pull out all those verbs. Now is a time for verbs.
It is almost Thanksgiving, and two weeks have passed since an election that made me feel less secure in this country. When I think about gratitude this year, these events cannot be separated.
I am grateful.
I am grateful for my immediate family. They keep me grounded, and make me smile and laugh every single day.
I am grateful for the friends and family in my life that are expressing their outrage over the president-elect’s dangerous appointments and calling their congresswomen and men to ask them to take a stand against individuals who represent prejudice and hatred.
I am grateful that people who voted for Trump number among these friends and family making calls to protest Stephen Bannon’s appointment, grateful that they mean it when they say they are concerned, they are listening, they are trying.
I am grateful that people who didn’t vote for Trump who said “let’s wait and see” number among these friends and family making calls, because they have seen enough and do not want to wait to see the policies that follow such harmful appointments.
I am grateful for government employees and members of congress who speak out against racism, xenophobia, religious prejudices, homophobia, sexism and the appointments that would carry representation for all of those prejudices into the White House. Who refute or dismiss those that say, “white privilege is imagined.” Thank you for being ready to fight for and with us.
I am grateful to live in a country where dissent is allowed, where it is tradition, where it is a right. I remind myself of the many places around the globe where this is not the case and appreciate the ability I have to speak out and be heard.
I am grateful to live in a country where the people have a say in the government. Yes, it’s a democratic republic, and not a true democracy, and no, the election outcome was not the outcome I wanted, and there is a lot of fear for good reason right now. But still, I am grateful to live somewhere that there is a process in which the people have the right to be heavily involved.
I am grateful to live in a community that cares. I spent yesterday speaking to over 20 businesses in Bangor, and almost all of them contributed to a care package to deliver to an individual, a person of color, who was assaulted last week. I am grateful to live somewhere that comes out in force to say, “This is not okay.”
I am grateful for theaters and performance spaces. Theaters have formed the safest of spaces in so many people’s lives, including my own: the space where you can make yourself uncomfortable and step out and speak or sing or play or dance, and know that you are supported, the space where you can make your audience uncomfortable and it is expected and appreciated. It is part of the unspoken agreement, the invisible contract between an audience member and a performer.
I am grateful to teachers: those in my life, those in my children’s lives, those in my readers’ lives, and those all over this country, this world. I am grateful that there are people who fulfill that most precious of tasks, educating our children, and do so eagerly, willingly, and lovingly, despite the amount of time and energy involved, which goes far beyond the realm of other jobs. I am grateful for teachers who do not view the use of that time and energy as a sacrifice, but as an opportunity. I am grateful to those teachers and professors who taught me to push at the seams and pull at the strings of the narratives that pad our history, to ask, to listen, to respond, to create, to read, and read, and read.
I am grateful for libraries and librarians. I am thankful there are places I can go, more safe spaces, to seek out information and stories that help me undo those narratives and build my understanding of our society, our world. I am grateful to those librarians who actively build their collections and set out displays to allow me to do that, and to read, and read, and read.
I am grateful for children’s books. I am thankful I can return from the library with bagfuls of books to share with my children. I am grateful those books show brown and tan and pink and yellow and rainbow people making peace, making friends, making music, making signs, making rebellions, making adventures. I am grateful for the mirrors and windows and empathy in those books. I am grateful for nonsensical, nonhuman, fantastical books, too. They also offer mirrors and windows, but perhaps those mirrors came from a funhouse, and maybe the windows from a moving high-speed train.
I am grateful for the children’s book community. I am grateful to belong to a community that creates stories children and young adults (and let’s be honest, adults, too) can disappear into and/or absorb into their skin, after which they feel more visible. I am grateful for We Need Diverse Books and the conversations they push, and for The Brown Bookshelf and the commitment they’ve cultivated “toward the goals of equality, justice, and peace.” I am grateful to belong to a community that is able to self-reflect and critique and revise.
I am grateful for readers. Oh readers, I am above all thankful for you. You give us our purpose. You move our goals. You inspire us every time we type a word. You bring our stories to life. Your voice matters. You are powerful. We care. I care. Thank you for keeping us accountable.
Today is my birthday, and I have decided to share my wishlist of amazing gifts that you could give me or any other children’s book author or illustrator. I know you’ve been wondering. So here you go, my friends.
11 Meaningful Gifts To Give A Children’s Book Author Or Illustrator
- Stop by your local library and ask if they have their book. If they don’t because it’s checked out, great! But if they don’t yet own a copy, ask them to order it. If librarian tells you to add it to a suggestion box, please do! Chances are, it will be ordered.
- Stop by your local bookstore and ask if they carry their book. If not, ask them to order it.
- Stop by your local elementary/middle/high school and ask if the book is in the school library. If not, ask them to order it.
- Write a review of their book on Goodreads, Amazon, or another online platform of your choice.
- Add their book to your Goodreads to-read list. They won’t be offended if you admit if you haven’t read it yet. They’ll be delighted by the addition! Those numbers matter!
- Tell a friend about their book. Heck, tell a stranger about their book.
- Turn to social media. Post or tweet about their book. Like their author page. Suggest people like their author or illustrator page. Share a post they have written. If their book is new (and they have made one), visit, comment on, and/or like their SCBWI Book Blast page!
- If that author does school visits (hey, New England & tri-state area, friends, I do!), tell your school’s PTO, principal, and/or teachers that you think the author would be a fabulous choice for a school event. The NUMBER ONE way that authors schedule school visits is through word of mouth! That’s you, friends!
- Purchase their book to gift to a child in your life.
- Purchase their book to donate to a classroom, school library, public library, or literacy drive.
- Read their book to a child in your life. Read any book you love to a child in your life. Continue that circle of connection, communication, and compassion that occurs when you read aloud to someone.
Do you have any other ideas? Share them below! Thank you for your birthday wishes!
It has been a busy couple of months around here. Thérèse Makes a Tapestry officially launched on March 8th, and I’ve been thrilled with the response. From positive reviews to feature articles, and even a t.v. interview, people have been receptive and excited. The biggest treat has been the events with family, friends, and new readers.
In Bangor, ME The Briar Patch hosted a launch party and book signing, complete with a collaborative weaving project thanks to the generosity of One Lupine Fiber Arts. It was so well attended that the bookshop sold out of copies of Thérèse! (Never fear, they’re back in stock!)
In my hometown of Princeton, MA the Cultural Council and Princeton Public Library sponsored yet another launch party and book signing. I felt stunned by the turnout of family, friends, those friends who have become family over so many years, and teachers.
A special note on teachers. I’ve been fortunate to have some wonderful teachers over the years, the kind that every child and young adult deserve to have. The kind that taught and pushed and guided and applauded and listened, and most of all believed. The kind that made you want to be and become your best self. The kind that not only witnessed some of your darkest moments, but that buoyed you up rather than giving up. I felt overwhelmed to see those same teachers come out and support me years, even decades, after I’d left their classrooms.
One of those teachers had organized the book signing that day. When I was in fifth grade, my soon-to-be sixth-grade teacher, Mrs. Susan Roney-O’Brien, took me under her word-feathered wing. She and a fellow local poet, the late (and oh so great) Juli Nunlist, ran a series of workshops for young writers out of Juli’s red barn studio. Together they nurtured my writing. They taught me lessons in storytelling and friendship I’ll never forget. Mrs. O helped me publish a chapbook of poetry in eighth grade, and put together a reading and book signing then, too. She said yes to any project I brought forth to her over the years, and has always been ready to listen, read, and talk. It is in large part thanks to Mrs. O’s guidance and mentorship over the years that I am an author today. Her poetry is remarkable. Read her new book, Legacy of the Last World, and you’ll see what I mean.
This past weekend I designed a table for the 2016 Annual Literacy Tea held by the Literacy Volunteers of Bangor. What a fun event! Every table is themed around a children’s book, and I thoroughly enjoyed designing a table for Thérèse Makes a Tapestry, not to mention seeing the enormous creativity among all the other tables. Over 300 people attended the tea, including volunteers and students. Lest there be any doubt, children’s books and tea parties are meant for each other. The fact that this one could help raise money (nearly $20,000!) for an organization that does such important work made it that much more fabulous.
In other news, I wrote all winter and have a couple of picture book manuscripts to show for it. Fingers crossed for next steps.
Early reviews of Thérèse Makes A Tapestry are beginning to emerge. They are all positive so far (yay!), but I know that I already have the best review I could ever receive.
My mother gave me her official review last spring. She passed away in July. The dedication of the book to her was supposed to be surprise when it came out in print. I remain grateful to the team at Getty Publications for overnighting a final draft for her viewing in the days before she died. So yes. Thanks, Mom. I’ve already won the review game.
I can’t believe it is already May and nearly two months since my last post. In addition to keeping busy with part-time jobs, toddlers, travel, etc., I have been working on a couple of secret projects. One of these two projects I am now at liberty to share. I am cooking up baby #2, due in October! Ha, that counts as a project, right?
Pregnancy takes up a whole lot of energy. Naps have reentered my life (although they seem to be slowly drifting out again). Thinking about our life a few months from now, I’ve decided to let myself enjoy the occasional nap at present. I mean, all that well intended advice to sleep when the baby sleeps is really only applicable the first time around. Once there are two or more kiddos in the household, will anybody be sleeping, ever? A fierce internal voice says, YES! The mama in me chuckles and sighs, Sometime, someday.
I will leave you in suspense about the second project. I promise it is more of a traditional project, though.
We have been reading a lot, as always. I even had put an Off the Shelf series together back in March but for some reason never posted it. Better late than never?Read More›
An old friend recently reached out on Facebook for perspective on having children. She wondered in particular how parents stay sane in the face of things like explosive diapers, extensive sleep deprivation, childhood illnesses, and the need to find and then pay babysitters to do anything without a child in tow. She explained that while lots of parents she knows say their kids are the best thing that ever happened to them, she could not see how she would overcome the aforementioned obstacles. Her questions and comments struck me for two reasons: one, their honesty — I think a lot of people have these questions and wonder why people assume having children is a good thing rather than just the next logical step at a certain stage — and two, I think she has picked up on something. Yes, plenty of parents do think and say that parenthood is the best thing to ever happen to them but not many expound on that. It is a lot easier to vocalize the frustrations of another sleepless night than the reason having a child is so wonderful. Plus, based on my very unscientific observations on the social media I inhabit, snark is a lot more “in” than sincerity. Complaints are or can be funny. Talking about love and joy, not so much (or at least those subjects take a lot more work). There is also the presumption, I think, that parents don’t need to explain to other parents. But for what it’s worth, here is the gist of the response I gave my friend.
I don’t judge anyone who doesn’t want kids. There are as many reasons to not be a parent as to be. (Furthermore, not having children does not make your life childless. Some of my child’s most ardent and adoring fans are dear friends who do not want their own children.) For me, though, having a child has been an exercise in falling in love, the greatest love of my life. There has been all the excitement, leveling of expectations, and attempts to be the best version of myself. More sleepless nights, yes, although it hasn’t felt so very different than college exhaustion-wise and from all accounts will probably last about as long per child. The reasons for the sleeplessness are different, and the responsibilities are greater, but exhaustion is exhaustion as far as I am concerned. However, no other person has the ability to make my heart explode with joy so many times a day. Or my throat tighten as quickly if I see them hurting. To make me feel like a superhero or like the most helpless creature on this planet. I have never had more fun or felt as humbled. The diapers, night wakings, illness, and babysitters, they’re all temporary. There’s probably a reason that those things coincide with the phase in which your kids love you so hard and so openly it can blow your mind. Thus far, parenthood is another type of education. High investment, high return, and the lingering hope that I don’t go utterly broke in the process.
Is my child the best thing that ever happened to me? Yes. “Best” is a misleading term, though. It sounds easy and obvious. Likewise, my “worst” days as a parent, the days when I feel most challenged, still contain more love, joy, and pride than any single day prior to becoming a parent.
I have kept a journal since I was about eleven years old. Writing has always been an outlet for me, and a journal serves me as a way to release and cope with stress as well as to document mundane moments or celebrate the personal triumphs in my life. It is a place to experiment with styles and formats, although I confess I did this more in the past. Since grad school poetry has taken a backseat to other stiffer modes of expression, something I hope to change in the relatively near future.
I have finished every journal I have ever started, with the exception of a very first attempt from 1995 which functioned as much as a notepad as it did a journal. After a second “start” in 1997, though, each journal is complete. In middle school my handwriting was tiny. So neat and minuscule, I could never now replicate it. My entries became into letters to the important people in my life. A couple of my friends then also kept journals, and we would spend hours reading entries to each other. In high school I crafted elaborate collages of images and quotations to illustrate the day-to-day descriptions. I was not the healthiest version of myself in high school, and one horrible day I left my journal at school. Thank goodness two friends found it, and both denied reading it but from their concern-tinted voices and eyes I knew they had. I felt mortified but mostly grateful that they had found it and not someone else. In college my handwriting changed to the hurried but legible scrawl that it still is today. At the busiest periods I didn’t write as much. Still don’t. So, for example, there isn’t as much about the time I spent living in France and later Thailand as I wish.
I don’t write as much as I did when I was younger. I have had only three journals since college. But I always have my journal on me just in case, and would feel uneasy without one. Almost all of my journals have been gifts. I haven’t received a new one in years, actually, and that hardly matters because I still have empty journals that people gave me well over a decade ago. There has never been any method to my selection process. I don’t use them in the order in which I received them. I tend to just choose whatever journal feels right at the moment. At one point I liked to reread all of my journals once I completed one, but have long since stopped doing that. Less time and more journals. However, I did go through and number them, as well as add the start and end date to each journal. That way I can easily figure out which journal to look in if I ever want to reference a specific event. Two days ago I finished my fourteenth journal. (In the first picture, you may notice there are only thirteen journals. I didn’t miscount, one is just in a different box that has yet to be unpacked.)
Lately I have been wondering about the relationship of blogging and journaling. Things like, what proportion of bloggers also keep journals? How many used to but stopped after they began to blog? If I were a middle schooler now, would I still have that circle of friends to share journals with, or would we have jumped to a blog or online journal format instead? I’m sure someone has written about this and even studied it.
Do you keep a journal? How have your own journals changed? Share if you’re willing!