More specifically, about the fact that I've done precious little of it in months, largely thanks to the upcoming move, the final deadline for which is only a fortnight away.
Understandable? Sure. On some levels, at least. But really, there have been days when I've accomplished little more than packing (or, at the other house, unpacking) one or two boxes and then playing lots of Spider Solitaire.
On the one hand, it's hard to settle my brain to work, although I've managed to at least keep up with this year's newest writing projects, a daily journal (which is moving towards being a writing journal, about what I am and am not getting accomplished) and a poetry diary, which results in new poems (nearly) daily. Some of them even turn out to be okay work product, or the start of something worth revising, so at least I don't feel like a total failure.
And tomorrow, I am spending the day working on an editing job for a favorite client of mine (hear that, Slatts?), which is tremendous fun both due to the writing I'm working with (it's already good!) and the subject matter (MORE than good, and funny, too!).
I have decided that it is okay that I've been semi-idle for a while. Not because it has to be okay, although there's a bit of that, too, I guess. But because every single writer I know goes through these sorts of fallow periods, whether they are brought on by burn-out, or fatigue, or one too many rejections or negative comments from peanut gallery in the hard world of publishing. Whatever the reason, it happens, and since I am (unfortunately? fortunately?) not on deadline for anyone except the aforementioned client, who is pretty flexible anyhow, I figure I will roll with it.
But come April, I'll be ready to write like a mofo. Maybe I'll get me one of these mugs from The Rumpus. Or not. I am telling myself this pretty much every day, so that "whan that Aprille with his shoures soote" arrives, I'll be ready to write. Meanwhile, it's catch as catch can for me.
How are things with you?
- Current Mood: quixotic
- Current Music:dishwasher sounds
In TSARINA, Natalya is on a quest to find a magical Faberge egg. The egg was enchanted by Rasputin for the Romanov family— with it, the Romanovs will always control Russia. The egg also keeps the Romanovs healthy, cures them when they’re sick, binds them to the land…it’s why Alexei Romanov’s hemophilia is no longer a problem, why it snows when the Tsar wants it to, and why wild elk happily eat from the Romanov sisters’ hands.
The magic may not be real, but Faberge eggs are. Here’s some knowledge about them:
1) A lot of people think any sparkly, bejeweled egg is a Faberge egg but…not so much. The term “Faberge egg” only applies to a very specific group of eggs made by the Faberge company between 1885 and 1917.
2) The eggs were commissioned as Easter gifts. The tradition began when Alexander III had the Hen Egg commissioned for his wife, Maria Feodorvna. She loved the egg so much that Alexander began commissioning them for her every Easter.
3) Each egg had a surprise inside. For example, the Moscow Kremlin Egg is a music box:
The Catherine The Great Egg has a mechanical sedan chair inside, with a little figure of Catherine the Great on it. The super cool chair has, sadly, been lost, but at least we still have the Egg itself….
And the Standard Yacht Egg has a freaking boat in it:
4) After Alexander III died, his son, Nicholas II (the last Tsar— Alexei’s father) began commissioning the eggs both for his mother and his wife, Alexandra.
5) Only 57 of these eggs are left of the 65 that were originally made. The eight “missing eggs” were either lost, stolen, or misplaced over time. If you see one, call me?
6) Of those 65 eggs, only 52 were made for the Romanov family. Once other nobles saw how awesome the eggs were, they began commissioning their own. Very few could afford them, but the Rothschild family had a few, as did an industrialist named Kelch and the Duchess of Marlborough.
7) The eggs typically had something to do with the Romanov family. For example. in 1915, the egg for the Tsarina was Red Cross themed, since she and her daughters were volunteering with the Red Cross as nurses:
8) Despite the royal family’s reputation for unapologetic opulence, they actually didn’t commission any eggs at all in 1904 and 1905, since Russia was in the middle of the Russo-Japanese war and they thought it would be in poor taste to spend so much on luxuries. They also had some eggs made of less expensive materials during World War 1— for example, the Steel Military Egg:
9) Stalin, everyone’s favorite guy (much sarcasm there) sold a lot of the eggs in 1927 to try and raise money for the government, which is why all the remaining eggs are sort of spread out all over the world. Many are even owned by private (and very wealthy) collectors.
The Pelican Egg, for example, is in Virginia:
The Gatchina Palace Egg (one of my favorites!) is in Maryland:
The Diamond Palace Egg, which is in a private collection:
The Basket of Wild Flowers Egg belongs to the Queen of England these days:
Zero of the eggs are in my living room. Which, I know, my house is no place for a rare Faberge egg.
But still. I wish it was.
Mirrored from JacksonPearce.com.
If you'd like to see my recent four+- and five-star YA recommendations, visit Robin ReadsnWrites.
* I didn't make it beyond the first 20 pages.
** I made it to the end, but I either skimmed or skipped large sections.
*** I might have skipped/skimmed, but I liked it and might read it again.
**** I read at least 95% of the book and it was good -- probably will be reread.
***** I read every word, and I loved it! A favorite and definite reread.
This year, I'm only going to list the stars and a brief recommendation for the type of readers I think will enjoy the book.
Better Off Friends, by Elizabeth Eulberg -- highly recommended for those who enjoy sweet (and a little angst) friendship-to-romance stories with thoughtful characters -- Point, 2/14
Sick, by Tom Leveen -- recommended for those who enjoy horror and the idea of a virus taking over and like an easy-to-read style -- Amulet Books, 10/13
The Moon and More, by Sarah Dessen -- recommended for those who enjoy Dessen's books and those who like coming-of-age stories about those heading into college -- Viking, 6/13
Diamonds & Deceit, by Leila Rasheed -- recommended for those who enjoyed the first one and those who like drama set in turn-of-the-century (1900s) days -- Disney/Hyperion, 1/14
Blythewood, by Carol Goodman -- recommended for those who like atmospheric novels with fantastical ideas and rich settings (like Wuthering Heights, perhaps) -- Viking, 10/13
Currently Reading: the second in the Palladin series
On Deck: the usual ;)
Do you wear more than one hat in the children's-YA book world? There are a lot of us. Writers who also are teachers or librarians. Illustrators who do promotional design. Retired librarians who work as consultants.
Today we welcome indie bookseller and author-illustrator Annette Simon, who has boldly decided to split herself into three people (the third of whom is a special guest reporter at Cynsations) and interview herself. Or herselves? Read on to discover for yourself.
By Annette Simon
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations
Reporter AS: I’m glad we could all get together. Where do each of you work?
Bookseller AS: My work is play in a lovely independent, The BookMark, in Neptune Beach, Florida.
Writer/Artist AS: I play in my studio, at my kitchen table, and on whatever paper scraps are handy.
Reporter AS: You both love books. How does it feel to be surrounded by them?
Bookseller AS: Pretty much like heaven, except without the time to read them all.
Writer/Artist AS: Both inspired and intimidated. All those fantastic, new books! But a store’s never-ending supply makes getting published look easy.
Bookseller AS: Booksellers know otherwise. Besides, we champion the creators of those fantastic, new books.
Writer/Artist AS: Really? Bet we champion you more....
Reporter AS: I take it, reading is both a privilege and a job requirement?
Writer/Artist AS: Ditto. And ditto. Hey, remember ditto paper?
Bookseller AS: The smell of third grade! Remember when our teacher’s sub –
Reporter AS: Ladies, what’s the best part of your job?
Bookseller AS: Talking with people who love books. Matchmaking people and books. And when someone comes back for more? That reluctant reader now reads? Just … joy.
Writer/Artist AS: I’d say it’s those moments of creating when you’re in the zone, almost outside of yourself. But copy that about talking and reading. Nothing beats knowing your work matters to someone.
Bookseller AS: Icing on the cake is when that book was created by a friend.
Writer/Artist AS: Aww…. Uh, we’re friends, right?
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Bookseller AS: It’s our reason for being.
Writer/Artist AS: Absolutely.
Reporter AS: What’s something you learned on the job that surprised you?
Bookseller AS: That there is no perfect book.
Writer/Artist AS: Are you kidding me? I can name several right now. How ‘bout –
Bookseller AS: I mean, there is no one book that’s perfect for everybody, every time. Its connection will depend on a person’s reading level, time, interests, desires, life story, mood, and goals at that moment, which can and will vary any day of the week.
For children’s books, the buyers are also the gatekeepers, so add their goals for the reader. However, these are also the reasons why most good books will probably connect with someone, at some point.
Writer/Artist AS: Hmm ... I hadn’t thought of that. Okay. It relieves a bit of pressure. My book will not be for everybody, all the time, and that doesn’t mean it is (or I am) a failure.
More likely, my book will connect with someone, somewhere. I’ll channel Mr. Dean Martin….
Reporter AS: Tell me about the bookseller/author relationship. How do you best work with each other?
Bookseller AS: As I said, booksellers love writers and artists.
Writer/Artist AS: And we love booksellers. Also, librarians and media specialists.
Unless, of course, you’re Harper Lee, J.K. Rowling, John Green, Judy Blume, my parents, or the President.
Then, please. And by all means!
Writer/Artist AS: So what do I do if I’d like to see my book in your store?
Bookseller AS: Please visit the store’s website, and contact appropriately. If you’re a regular customer (and we hope that you are), please say so. If you’re visiting the area and can sign stock, let us know. But please, never tell indie booksellers that they can purchase your book from that giant online store.
Reporter AS: That happens?
Bookseller AS: More than you’d think. If you’re traditionally published, our source is your publisher. If you’re not, make sure your book is available through a reputable distributor.
Also, when you’re visiting the store, please don’t yammer on all "me, me, me." Talk with the sellers, ask about business or favorite titles. And once your book is on the shelf, please consider a link to the store on your author website. It’s just good business, you know?
Reporter AS: Parting thoughts?
Bookseller AS: Um ... I’ve become addicted to spine poetry.
Writer/Artist AS: I may have had a hand in that. Wanna share one we made together?
Bookseller AS: With pleasure. ‘Cause it’s true.
Reporter AS: Thank you, Annettes. I couldn’t have said it better, myself.
Cynsational Event Report
Last weekend, writer/art gal Annette Simon launched her new picture book, Robot Burp Head Smartypants! (Candlewick, 2014), at bookseller Annette Simon’s store.
Here’s a glimpse from AS of how it went:
We're on the store's events board!
Books in the house! Er, store.
Prime real estate: a store window.
Event prizes included foam numbers and alphabet puzzles, and sticker packages made by Annette and her mother-in-law.
Party treats included iced cookies.
Annette recruited store colleague and Duval County reading specialist Pat Laurence to play the green robot (and wear its tie).
Why we do what we do.
Enter to win a signed and personalized copy of Robot Burp Head Smartypants! (Candlewick, 2014) and a set of alphabet-and-numbers foam stickers. Author sponsored. Eligibility: U.S. Enter here.
Part 2 of my SCBWI conference recap–let’s pick up where I left off. I’ve had a yummy lunch at the food court in Grand Central and I’ve dug into the chocolate stash in my bag. If you didn’t want to hang out with me before, you might once you know I bring enough for friends.
I also forgot to mention I did some live tweeting from the conference #NY14SCBWI. And my clown “shout out” even got tweeted. It DOES count for something. And here is my writer friend..Bee Bee the Clown <3
I made lots of new friends through tweeting and if you go back and search the #NY14SCBWI hashtag–you will find a wealth of information on sessions I didn’t attend and links to other bloggers recapping the conference.
Grrrr I took a picture at my next Breakout session. I know I did, because Sara Shandler (Senior Vice President, Editorial, Alloy Entertainment) wore the cutest outfit EVER! Guess you’re going to have to take my word for it LOL!
Breakout session #2 was Developing and Selling a Series
I picked this talk because it was an area in publishing that I don’t know a whole heck of a lot about. After hearing Sara talk I have a few excellent tidbits to share with you…
*Have a clear, one sentence pitch/concept. You have a very limited time to capture someone’s attention.
*Each book must have it’s own story arc.
*Know your ending.
-where is the story going?
-is it a closed arc or can it be extended?
*Avoid following trends, know what’s out there and be unique.
The next Keynote Speaker was Elizabeth Wein: Bearing Witness: Authorial Responsibility
AGAIN I’m missing an action shot, so here she is signing my copy of ROSE UNDER FIRE!!! I waffled for such a long time about whether to get Rose or CODE NAME VERITY. I finally decided to pick my favorite of the two, but it was soooooo close.
Things you should know…
*She’s a 20 year overnight success story.
*Everyone is at wildly different stages of the journey.
*We are responsible for putting ideas in people’s heads at the earliest of ages.
Next up was the Keynote Panel: Banning Books–Where Do We Stand?
JB – Joan Bertin (Executive Director, National Coalition against Censorship)
EH – Ellen Hopkins
SR – Susanna Reich (Chair, Children’s and Young Adult Book Committee, Pen American Center)
I’m going to have a ton for you from Ellen Hopkins. She is brave and amazing and I hung on her every word…
*You make children stronger by giving them the truth.
*Pull the books out from under the covers and read them WITH your kids.
*Do you think that Harper Lee didn’t write To Kill A Mockingbird for a reason?
*If a thirteen year old girl is sexually abused, shouldn’t she have the right to read a book about it?
*Write bravely–speak the truth.
*I have a responsibility to my readers–not the censors. Speak the truth.
Appropriately wearing my I READ BANNED BOOKS bracelet and reading To Kill A Mockingbird with the boys.
And Susanna Reich noted…
*72 of the top 100 most challenged books in the past years have been children’s books.
*Librarians are on the front line of censorship.
*Multicultural books can speak to all kids, not just children of color.
*To create something you have to face your own fears.
THAT is an amazing note to end the day on…if the day were ending. Up next was the Gala Dinner where you will ALWAYS find me hanging out by the MASHED POTATO BAR!!!!!
The picture is a little blurry, but can you blame me if my hands were trembling in excitement? A MASHED POTATO BAR people!!!! Unfortunately, just looking at that picture puts me back into carb overload. I think I need to lay down on my couch and take a nap…
That’s right–I forgot to tell you. I FINALLY GOT MY COUCH!!!
Oh, happy day.
I’ll be back on Tuesday with the last conference recap. But while you’re waiting for some closure (hopefully on your cozy couch) tell me what your favorite banned book is.
But that narrative, inspiring as it is at times, sets up a certain pressure and expectation even around failure. Now we have to try harder; now the success has to be even bigger to compensate for the setback. Now we have something to prove. Now we pursue, or await, the victory with even more anxiety.
In reality, failure isn't always followed by success. Sometimes that truth is very hard, tragic even. But sometimes it's just--life. It's okay not to win in the end. Imperfection is okay. The journey is worth taking anyway.