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The Baltimore Book Festival

On Saturday, I was at the Baltimore Book Festival, where I was invited to read inside the Story Share - a new tent that is a cozy reading spot. It is also a cool art installation, designed by my super-talented cousin Stewart Watson, who is written up in Baltimore Magazine this month along with Area 405 (the art space she manages).

The name of the installation is Goodnight Moonlight Nightlight, and the tent featured a HUGE nightlight that changed colors and involved a moon cover that Stewart made . . . somehow. I neglected to ask. The tent was lined with colors and patterns inside, and contained beanbag chairs and poufs and pillows, plus bins of books for the reading.

Heres are some photos:

Here's me, before getting to the reading.

Stewart Watson and me inside the Story Share

My sweetheart, Morris, next to the giant nightlight

It was a great day - I got to read my picture book, At the Boardwalk, a number of times for people who stopped in, and also read poems from other anthologies and from my chapbook, along with fielding questions about writing for children and visiting with an aspiring picture book author who was really fun to talk with.

Glad I rested all last week in advance of it, and not sorry that I'm still wiped out because of it!

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Today's writing victory

I've been happily back at work on my Adelaide Crapsey picture book, and inching forward. I wrote about it the other day, as you may know, in a post entitled "One Step Up and Two Steps Back". (Side-effect of that post is that I've had that Springsteen song in my head for days. I consider this a good thing, actually, because it's a great song.)

Today, I pretty much wiped out two days' work and replaced it with something completely different, and now all things feel right in the world again. (Yes, I have seen Twitter already and know that's not the case, but for this short, happy, post-writing period, all is right in the world. Which may be the best reason for writing of all.)

Now to chug a lot of water so that I can have a less-unpleasant IV infusion this afternoon. I'm starting a new RA medicine. The last one did absolutely nothing to help the RA, though it did give me a fungal infection in my hands and cause dry skin and lots of hair loss, so one cannot say it did nothing. I do not like IVs (or any needles, really, though home injections were way better than this B.S.), so think kind thoughts for me, okay?

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Upcoming event: The Baltimore Book Festival

Four years after publication, and my little picture book and I are being featured as part of the Baltimore Book Festival in Baltimore, Maryland.

Here's a link to the event details for my reading, which will be inside the Story Share, an installation built by the wonderfully talented artist Stewart Watson (who happens to be my cousin - I am so very proud of her!). The Story Share is located just along Light Street, very near the Festival Bookshop.

If you click on the box below, it will open the page from the Book Festival, and you can then click around to see what else is going on:

I plan on reading At the Boardwalk, along with poems I have in other anthologies, including the National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry, the National Geographic Book of Nature Poetry, Dare to Dream . . . Change the World, The Poetry Friday Anthology, and, of course, from my chapbook of adult poems, The Universe Comes Knocking.

If you live in or near Baltimore, I hope you will stop by on Saturday!

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One Step Up, and Two Steps Back

That's just how the writing goes sometimes.

And by sometimes, I mean mostly all the time for me.

I have been allowing health issues to derail me for quite a while, but have finally decided that if I'm a writer, I should be writing. And Adelaide was calling me, so I've returned to her story, telling her life for a young audience.

Mostly, it involves me sifting and picking out the essentials to share. And then I write too much about them. And often, in a too complicated way. And then I have to go back and pare and whittle and reassess.

Also, as any reader of The Little Prince by Antoine de St. Exupéry knows, "what is essential is invisible to the eye", which means I often end up going back and removing something like an actual life event and adding in one of her poems, or a quote from a letter, or some other humanizing detail.

Because a parade of simple facts is not a book - or at least, it's not a good biography. Maybe that's a topic for a different day.

Today I wrote nearly 200 words. Three paragraphs. Then I focused on that first paragraph, which was a good 95 words or so, and struggled through what was and wasn't important. I took out lots of facts. I added in a bit of a quote from a letter. It's now 44 words. I won't know until tomorrow or later whether they will stay. For sure the remaining 74 words have to be scaled back. Or maybe be entirely replaced. Again, it's a choice for another day.

One step up and two steps back.

And yes, today's title comes from a Springsteen song: "Somewhere along the line I slipped off track. I'm caught movin' one step up and two steps back." The back-up singer eventually changes it to "two steps up and one step back", and that's my goal. Meantime, this is me. Writing, then undoing, then rewriting, then paring, then inching slowly forward.

One step up and two steps back.
Two steps up and one step back.

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Over at Guys Lit Wire

Today, it's my review of FASCINATING: The Life of Leonard Nimoy by Richard Michelson, illustrated by Edel Rodriguez. Because you're never too old for picture books. Here's the link to the review.

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Once upon a time, I wrote a book

Of course, I've written many. It's just that so far, only the one has sold. It was called AT THE BOARDWALK, and it arrived into the world in 2012. It got a good review in Kirkus (but no star). It was carried in Barnes and Noble throughout the country (but only in paperback). It was featured on the picture book wall in B&N (but only for about six weeks, and not long after that it was no longer in B&N stores at all).

Perhaps you have already guessed where this is going, but maybe not.

My book got published. That was "the end" of a long story for me, right? I had been writing for years and blogging for years and going to conferences for years, working hard and hoping and waiting. And it had finally happened. And I immediately started looking for two things: (1) the next deal (which still hasn't come) and (2) for the other shoe to fall - some of which you can see in the first paragraph, inside those parentheses.

Even as I was excited that the book was real, I was focused at least equally on the things that didn't happen, like stars and awards and hardcovers (which exist, and have been carried online and at many independent book stores) and more. I didn't celebrate each of the wonderful things that did happen as they arrived. And I should have.

Intellectually, I knew how hard it was to get published. That Kirkus giveth, and often taketh away (with devastating reviews, which I did not get). That B&N doesn't carry every book that comes out, so having it in their stores was huge. That having it ON THE WALL was enormous. But rather than celebrating those big deals, I was quick to look at the "buts".

And now it's 2016. I am excited that I've sold poems to anthologies - including some that are still in the pipeline - but I haven't sold another manuscript of my own.

This business is still hard. Also? It's hard, when things are static over time, to even remember all those good things that happened. To remember, even, that I had a book in the world.

But just yesterday, a friend sent us an audio file of him and one of his young sons reading one of the stanzas in my book. It was adorable - that small voice taking over from his dad and reading (or perhaps just reciting) the words. It's a favorite of theirs, and they read it often.

And I was reminded that I wrote that book, and that it got published, and that it is out there in the world being read by parents and children. And that is worth celebrating.

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This month's challenge with my poetry sisters was to write a clogyrnach, a form of Welsh poetry that is a song form and is in the "odes" family. I therefore wrote a sort of ode to autumn, which has become my favorite season over the years.

The clogyrnach can have any number of stanzas, but each stanza typically has 32 syllables: the first two lines rhyme and have 8 syllables each (A), the next two lines also rhyme (with themselves--B) and have 5 syllables each, and then you get a pick of two 3-syllable lines (one that rhymes B and the second of which rhymes A) OR a single, 6-syllable line that is of two three-syllable sections that rhyme B-A.

I found that it was extremely easy for these to sound a lot like a limerick, and it really wasn't my preference. Here's proof of that:

Chrysanthemums outside the store
To be planted near one’s front door—
Although August still,
The mums give a thrill
Autumn will come once more.

So after some serious thought and reworking on my part, here's one that uses lots of enjambment, which mostly gets rid of that limerick-y feel:

Outside the store, chrysanthemums
cheerfully remind us: Fall comes
after August’s heat
dwindles. Birds retreat
southward, fleet as blossoms.

You can find other clogyrnach poems by clicking the links below:

Laura Purdie Salas
Sara Lewis Holmes
Tanita S. Davis
Liz Garton Scanlon
Tricia Stohr-Hunt
Andi Sibley

You can get to the rest of the Poetry Friday posts by clicking the box below:

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Quiet Wednesday

Today was a quiet sort of day. I finished cutting out the pieces of a new quilt. I did a load of laundry. I made it to the bank to get my allowance. I had a lovely nap with my sweetheart (which was good - I woke up tired and was looking forward to my nap all morning). And then I had a bath this evening, with Epsom salts and an essential oil blend that is supposed to be calming.

I think it worked. I definitely feel calmer. And certainly smell better.

For the foreseeable future, I'm trying hard to keep my daily expectations for myself low. It actually is work for me to scale things back. I suspect this is pretty common among women I know. Things like laundry and grocery shopping and cleaning one's space and cooking and all that stuff is part of the "background noise" of life and barely counts to most of us as an accomplishment.

But it should.

Especially when, if you post that, say, your husband or sweetheart did that stuff, you'd get lots of comments about how wonderful he is for doing it. As if it's not also his clothes, house, stomach, etc. involved. (Yeah - there's sexism involved here, and it is amazing to me how many of us womenfolk perpetuate this particular niche of it.)

Then again, if you were talking to your mother or a girlfriend and she listed those things, you'd give her more credit than you give yourself. I mean, not as much as you would give a DUDE, but still, more than you would give yourself. (Or is it just me? Somehow I doubt it, but hey, if it is just me, let me know.)

Anyhow. I will be giving myself credit for ALL THE THINGS from now on, if only because it's all I can do to accomplish some of this stuff. (And the cleaning has gotten harder, too, since I am losing an awful lot of hair. Thanks, infusion-that-didn't-actually-help-my-RA-but-causes-hairloss-and-hand-fungus!)

I hope you are giving yourself credit for all you do, too.

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Recent thoughts about blogging

I love my blog.

I nearly said I "used to love" my blog. Because back in the day, I blogged all the time. I did projects. I shared thoughts.

Of course, once upon a time, nearly everyone was on LJ, and in the intervening years, most people scattered elsewhere, and it got harder to keep up with one another. And I got happier in my personal life, and less active in my online life, even though here inside the computer is where I can find so many of my friends. (So few are local - alas!) And I got more handicapped off and on by my autoimmune diseases, and fell off my blog entirely.

But here's the thing: I love my blog. I love sharing things with others, even though it's rare that I get tons of comments or feedback here. And I got to thinking how easy it is to STOP doing the things we like for a variety of reasons. (This is the first in one of several posts, and I have many thoughts on this.)

In the case of my blog, I think it's because I started to take it too seriously, and I therefore put pressure on myself to keep up in a particular way. I get that I "needed" to post reviews, since I'd done them. And month-long projects and readalongs (ditto). If I didn't have something brilliant to say, or couldn't come up with a "worthy" topic, why bother? (Makes me think of a line from Pride and Prejudice, in which Elizabeth Bennet says, ". . . unwilling to speak, unless we expect to say something that will amaze the whole room, and be handed down to posterity with all the éclat of a proverb." That about sums it up, no?)

And the answer to the question whether I blog or not is - or should be - because I love my blog. I love those of you who read and those who comment. It helps me to organize my thoughts from time to time. It gives me a feeling of accomplishment, even if I'm not getting much other writing done.

So I'm going to see what I can do about blogging a bit more. Because I can. Because I want to.

I hope you'll read along. And maybe comment, now and again.

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Stuff. And bother.

Health issues, woe, etcetera.

Started a new drug for my rheumatoid arthritis. Hasn't helped the RA, so my pains are worse. But it did cause a fungal infection in my hands, so I can't say it didn't do anything.

Sorry for the suspension of this here blog over the past few months, and I plan on doing better. Probably starting soon. Because I have some thoughts I'd like to share, and get your take on.

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