On Giving Diverse Books

I think about the need for diversity in books a lot.

First of all I live in a diverse neighborhood and I work alongside people of a diverse background. I see diversity every day. I work in the arts and I know how important it is for people to see their stories told on the page, stage, or screen.

Earlier this month while getting ready for my vacation I was looking at books at the airport bookstore. There is an airport bookstore at the MSP airport that kicks ass in terms of its children’s book selection. While I was looking at books, trying to get a little inspiration for my nephew’s upcoming birthday, the book A Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats caught my eye.

I think about diverse books a lot. A few years ago my dad married a woman from Mexico and is now the step parent to a wonderful soon to be teenager with a completely different background and heritage than him. My stepsister will go through life having experiences that I might never understand.

Last summer she came to visit and we went to the Mercado Central every day. The Mercado Central is a place in my neighborhood that is home to several owned and run by Latino people. The goal is to is to give people a way to grow and develop businesses. She loved getting to eat all of her favorite foods, buying her favorite kinds of candy at the Dulceria, and speaking with people at the Mercado in her native language. The children at the park by my house embraced her. Little ones looked up to her and ones closer to her age included her in their games. Since moving here she has also become a “typical” American teenager. She listens to pop music, she had a crush on Austin Mahone, but not Justin Bieber, she is a cheerleader and a gymnast. Recently she has begun to talk about how she is “losing her Mexican”.  I am always thinking about diverse books for her. Books with diverse characters, books written by writers from a diverse background.

Looking at books for my nephew that day and seeing A Snowy Day reminded me that I need to make sure I pay the same amount of attention to diversity when picking out books for my nephew. My nephew lives in Alabama. His parents are very conservative and religious. His parents live out in the country. They have juggled their lives around not putting my nephew in day care. It is possible that when the time comes for school that they will homeschool him or send him to a Christian school.

I don’t see him a lot but I realize that with this upbringing he may not be experience the same level of diversity in his life that a kid growing up in my neighborhood might. Looking at A Snowy Day I remembered that it is just as important to send my nephew books with diverse characters and diverse writers as it is to send my stepsister or any other child I buy books for.

 

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Returning to the Page

So I don’t want to dwell on what a tough year 2014 but one of the things that I didn’t do as much in 2015 was write.

But wait, aren’t you a writer? Isn’t this blog about writing?

So let me clarify. I wrote my 12 manuscripts for 12×12. I wrote 32 ideas for PiBoIdMo. I occasionally worked on my Middle Grade WIP. I wrote blog posts. I did copywriting for people.

But the writing that was missing from my life was the writing where I sit down with a notebook and a pen and just empty my thoughts onto paper. I’m not working on telling a story. I’m not worried about if anyone is reading it. I’m not worried about anything. I just sit and write and collect my thoughts for the day or maybe I write about a problem I’m having and I keep writing about that problem until I figure out how to deal with it.

Everyone does this kind of writing. Maybe it is the three pages you write in the morning, before you check your email or Facebook. Maybe it is just a writing warm up. But in 2014 I had less writing time so I didn’t spend as much time doing the clear my head kind of writing.

I feel like I lost focus on that writing as I turned my writing focus to how I could earn an income from my writing. I focused on how to break into freelance copywriting, editing, and proofreading and didn’t remember to write every day.

I am returning to journalling now, after realizing how much I missed it. I recently read about how writing can reduce stress buy giving you a way to deal with stress. Maybe the fact that I wrote less in my journal in 2014 is why my stress seemed to go up in 2014.

I dealt with a lot of stressful things in 2014 and I did so largely without writing about them. Part of me is a little bummed that I won’t have a record to look back on about 2014. How did I deal with all the change around me? How did I deal with my concerns?

As I settle back into habits I am returning to my daily writing practice. Writing, with a pen, in a notebook.

What is your daily writing practice? Do you start your day with journaling or morning pages?

 

 

What I Learned on My Vacation

As a writer and all around creative person I know how important traveling is. I know that when we travel we open ourselves to new experiences, see new things, meet new people, and fall in love with new places.

I know all these things. I’m secretly jealous of my brother, whose possessions fit in a hiking backpack, a laptop case, and a small box. I am envious of some of my younger friends who take a gap year or travel between projects. Sometimes I am even a little envious of people who go on tour.

But the choices I’ve made in my life favor security. Steady job, pets, home ownership, and investing are all things I place a high value on. My main passion is writing so I spend money on writing classes, workshops, and conferences.

January is usually a slow time at work and the minute it started snowing in November I just couldn’t face another winter without a break. I began looking at warm places and trying to figure out if there was a way I could take a vacation. I explored all the options. I figured even if I was staying on an air mattress in someone’s spare bedroom on airbnb it would still be better than hiding out underneath seventeen blankets, wrapped in three layers of clothes, and working my way through my netflix queue.

Here is what I learned on my vacation.

1. I need to take more vacations- I don’t know how I’m going to do this but I definitely need to change how I spend and save money so I can afford this.

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2. I need to go dancing more. I already kew this but I love dancing but I went dancing a couple nights in Cabo and I need to go dancing more.

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3. Travel begets more travel. I know I need or want to travel more. I look at pictures and think about it a lot. Here’s the thing there is not substitute for the real thing. Looking at a picture of a beach is nice but it will not motivate me as much as feeling the warm sun on my skin and the sand between my toes. Now that I’ve taken a proper vacation I can hardly wait to take my next vacation and you can bet I’m going to figure out how to make it happen.

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4. Travel inspires my writing. First of all I loved sitting on my little patio in Mexico scribbling in my notebook. I don’t know what picture book or middle grade ideas will come of this trip but I definitely have an idea for a screenplay even though I have no earthly idea about how to write a screenplay. Who knows perhaps I will write a screenplay inspired by my trip to Mexico and all of my future vacations will be paid for. A girl can dream, right?

5. Travel has unexpected side effects. Living out of a suitcase and only wearing shorts, flip flops, and swim suits for a week will change your perspective on your possessions. Slowing down, taking a more laid back approach to life, and disconnecting from the grid are all really great things. I returned home wondering why I have so much stuff.

I am already thinking about how to make travel more possible for myself in the future and also how to drag more people to Mexico with me next winter.

How does travel help you in your writing? Did taking a vacation inspire a story, novel, or some other writing?

 

Writing Gratitude

I’m following along with Julie Hedlund’s 12 Days of Christmas for Writers. Yesterday’s video was about gratitude and while this post might echo some of the things from my success post the other day I thought I’d share the list of things I’m thankful for as a writer as we bring in a new year.

I’m thankful for the 12×12 writing community. One of my goals for next year is to participate in the forums more.

I’m thankful for PiBoIdMo. It was so fun to participate in this challenge and to come up with 32 ideas. Now I won’t be spending each month scrambling for an idea.

I’m thankful for the SCBWI community. Again, something I want to be more involved with but I got to meet SCBWI members I hadn’t met before and that was fun.

I’m thankful for the Loft Literary Center. I love the classes and conferences I’ve attended here and am thankful for the connections I’ve made in classes here.

I’m thankful for Molly Beth Griffin’s Picture Book Writers’ Salon I don’t get to attend often due to the fact that I usually work at night but I attend every one that I can and I really enjoy them.

I am thankful for clients who have used my copywriting, editing, or proofreading services. I was so overwhelmed with the excitement my friends showed over my new skill set and their willingness to use me as a copywriter, editor, or proofreader.

I’m thankful for a full time job in the arts. Being surrounded by creative people and being part of the artistic process keeps me going on this journey as a writer.

I’m thankful to my brother for telling me about fiverr and helping me think outside the box as far as getting my copywriting, editing, proofreading business started.

I am thankful that my full time job leaves me with the time and energy to pursue my art.

I am thankful for health challenges I’ve faced this year as they have motivated me to take more action in pursuing my writerly goals.

I am thankful to the agents and editors I submitted to last year. Many of them took the time to say something about the work I was submitting and while I haven’t gotten an agent, editor, or book contract yet the personal comments have been encouraging as I continue the journey to publication.