Happy Valen”tiny’s” Day

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Susanna Leonard Hill is a picture book author who loves to invite other writers out to play. She also loves holidays. (Check out her darling Groundhog Day themed book, Punxatawney Phyllis!) To celebrate Valentine’s Day, Susanna is hosting a Valentiny writing contest (“Valen-tiny because the stories are not very long and are written for little people 🙂.”)

The Contest: write a Valentines story appropriate for children (ages 12 and under) maximum 214 words (get it? 2/14?) in which someone is confused!

I love opportunities like this, because sometimes it’s fun to let go of the ‘work’ of writing and remember what fun there is in the ‘play.’ Here’s my entry!

 

Operator? (213 words)

 

Psst. Jax is giving Pax some candy fish for Valentine’s Day. Pass it on.

Jax is giving Pax a sandy fish for Valentine’s Day. Pass it on.

Jack is giving Pax a squishy fish for Valentine’s Day? Pass it on.

Jack is giving Max a fishy squish for Valentine’s Day. Pass it on.

Jack and Max are going to fish and twitch on Balancing Day? Pass it on.

Jetpacks are going to switch and mix on Ballet Dance Day. Pass it on.

Jet and Pax are doing a special trick for Valley Trance Day. Pass it on.

 Jester Flax is giving a species talk for Valentine’s Day. Pass it on.

Jack is giving Max several purple socks for Valentine’s Day? Pass it on.

 Jax is giving Pax seven people’s snacks for Valentine’s Day. Pass it on.

Jax is giving Pax some peculiar facts for Valentine’s Day. Pass it on.

Jax is giving Pax some spectacular flips for Valentine’s Day. Pass it on.

Jax is giving Pax some cinder block fish for Valentine’s Day. Now, what did you hear?

I heard: Jax is giving Pax some squished black fish for Valentine’s Day. Huh…interesting choice. If I were Jax, I’d give Pax some candy fish. Those are his favorite!

 

Happy Valentine’s Day, whatever you get!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Multicultural Children’s Book Day

Hello! Hola! Bonjour! 你好! こんにちは! 여보세요!

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I was thrilled to be asked to share a review of the Broccoli Bilingual Kids Book Series as part of the fantastic celebration that is Multicultural Children’s Book Day (January 27th; more info below!).

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Broccoli Multicultural Kids Books is a company that started in Boston as a student run start-up. Now in New York City, they focus on sharing cultures by collecting stories from across the world and publishing them digitally. The stories are available in six languages: English, Spanish, French, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean. It also provides audio! What a great learning tool.

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“We believe that understanding each other is the first step to uniting diverse people into one community.” – Broccoli Multicultural Kids Books

Broccoli shared with me two stories from their collection, both presented in French and English

1) Les Deux Freres/Two Brothers has the beautiful feel of a classic folktale.

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The illustrations in this tale of sibling rivalry taken to extremes were charming. The storyline of the grumpy and mean brother being impatient and greedy felt very “du jour.”
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2) La Petit Grenouille qui n’écoute pas/Little Frog Doesn’t Listen reminded me of the original Grimm’s Fairy Tales, where events are not sugar coated. I would proceed with caution with sensitive little ones as things escalate quickly (there is a death) and the little frog who doesn’t listen ends up living with a lifetime of regret.

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This picture of the depressed Frog Mom was my favorite illustration from this story. It made me laugh but also tugged at my heart. What parent hasn’t at some point thought “what am I going to do about you?”

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Type in [Explore – Broccoli Book Series] on the Google Play Store or Apple App Store to read more!

fullsizerender-3Join me in celebrating stories that highlight how beautifully unique we all are, yet how similar at our core. Read on for more Information About Multicultural Children’s Book Day/ #ReadYourWorld:

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Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2017 (1/27/17) is its fourth year and was founded by Valarie Budayr from Jump Into A Book and Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom. Our mission is to raise awareness on the ongoing need to include kid’s books that celebrate diversity in home and school bookshelves while also working diligently to get more of these types of books into the hands of young readers, parents and educators. 

Despite census data that shows 37% of the US population consists of people of color, only 10% of children’s books published have diversity content. Using the Multicultural Children’s Book Day holiday, the MCBD Team are on a mission to change all of that. 

Current Sponsors:  MCBD 2017 is honored to have some amazing Sponsors on board. Platinum Sponsors include ScholasticBarefoot Books and Broccoli. Other Medallion Level Sponsors include heavy-hitters like Author Carole P. RomanAudrey PressCandlewick Press,  Fathers IncorporatedKidLitTVCapstone Young Readers, ChildsPlayUsa, Author Gayle SwiftWisdom Tales PressLee& Low BooksThe Pack-n-Go GirlsLive Oak MediaAuthor Charlotte Riggle, Chronicle Booksand Pomelo Books

Author Sponsor include: Karen Leggett AbourayaVeronica AppletonSusan Bernardo, Kathleen BurkinshawMaria DismondyD.G. DriverGeoff Griffin Savannah HendricksStephen HodgesCarmen Bernier-Grand,Vahid ImaniGwen Jackson,  Hena, Kahn, David Kelly, Mariana LlanosNatasha Moulton-LevyTeddy O’MalleyStacy McAnulty,  Cerece MurphyMiranda PaulAnnette PimentelGreg RansomSandra Richards, Elsa TakaokaGraciela Tiscareño-Sato,  Sarah StevensonMonica Mathis-Stowe SmartChoiceNationAndrea Y. Wang

We’d like to also give a shout-out to MCBD’s impressive CoHost Team who not only hosts the book review link-up on celebration day, but who also work tirelessly to spread the word of this event. View our CoHosts HERE.

Some sites to learn more about #ReadYourWorld

Multicultural Children’s Book Day 

Free Multicultural Books for Teachers 

Free Kindness Kit for Homeschoolers, Organizations, Librarians and Educators

Free Diversity Book Lists and Activities for Teachers and Parents

Guerilla Kindness

justbeniceIt has been a rough couple of weeks for this Pollyanna of politics. I’ve been thrust out of several bubbles I had been living in. And it’s uncomfortable. (I was the white lady reaching for the Xanax in that SNL skit about election night.) I thought that since the people I chose to surround myself with held values similar to mine, that meant that most other people did, too. It was hard to see how wrong I was about that. It was hard to imagine someone being able to ignore the ugly packaging and vote for what I believed to be a message of reversal of times, reversal of progress.

I spent the first few days after the election reading, reading, reading. Trying to understand. I know Republicans who are really good people, and some who aren’t. I know Democrats who are really good people, and some who aren’t. I know Independents who are good people, and some who aren’t. My chosen candidate has lost more than once in my adult life. But this was the first time the outcome of an election made me so despondent. I did not and still do not know how to reconcile the fact that the president-elect of our county embodies the antithesis of what I value most: kindness toward others.

I had to figure out what I was going to do next. After sitting on the couch under my blanket fort for a few days, I knew I needed to start acting. What I’ve decided is that now is the time for Guerilla Kindness.

I first learned the term guerilla warfare in 8th grade, when I was writing an essay about the Iran-Contra Affair (I was an overambitious English student). Before that, I had heard the term but had pictured angry gorillas flinging dung at one another. Guerilla warfare is the use of hit-and-run tactics by small, mobile groups of irregular forces operating in territory controlled by a hostile, regular force (Dictionary.com).

The idea of guerilla kindness came to me after hearing this post-election story: A woman saw a mother and son behind her in a fast-food drive thru line, pointing and laughing at her political bumper stickers. She made a split-second decision to turn her anger into action. She paid for their meals. You see? Guerilla kindness. And nothing they can do about it.

My call to action/forward motion:

safetypin After the U.K. voted to leave the European Union, incidents of racism skyrocketed, and people began donning safety pins as a way of showing their support for the immigrants living in the country, assuring that they’re safe with them. And I had noticed that the trend had spread to the U.S. after our election results similarly emboldened people to act even more overtly on their bigotry.

My first act of guerilla kindness started small, with something I did to make myself feel better. I scrounged in my jewelry box and came up with a safety pin, which I affixed to my burse (my backpack-purse, which is a thing. At least it is to me.) I’m not sure what I thought this little piece of metal would accomplish, but somehow it helped me get my shoes on and out the door. You see, it was my first outing since the election, and my heart was heavy. But I had been waiting 6 months for a one-day-only mattress sale, so off I went to help stabilize our economy. The sales person who greeted me looked similarly glum. We’ll call him Abdelhadi (because that’s his name).

When I pulled my burse off my shoulder to pay, he saw my safety pin. And once my transaction was complete, he whispered, “My wife has not gone to work for two days. She can’t stop crying.” I told him I had been crying on and off, too. “You?” he said with surprise. “You cried?”

I told him it was hard being confronted with just how out of touch I was with the racial divide in our country, how painful it was to have the illusion that I had been paying attention be broken. “Now you know,” he told me. Then he reached out for my hand and said more softly, “now you know.” It destroyed me. Here was this Muslim man from Dubai comforting me about my sadness.

When we parted ways, we shared a lingering handshake. “Tell you wife…” I started, but I couldn’t finish my thought. Tell her what? What could I possibly say to her to make her feel better? Hadi came to my rescue. “I’ll tell her you cried,” he said. “I’ll tell her you cried, too.”

 

 

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Okay, you put a pin on your purse. What now? What else?

I’ve written before about a service organization called hawkwing, Inc (the h is not capitalized, no matter how much I want it to be).  They “provide essential services and support for the people of the Cheyenne River Lakota (Sioux) Indian Reservation,” and run an annual holiday giveaway that is organized in a warehouse near my home. “The Annual Giveaway brings joy each winter to some 2,600 children on the Reservation, many of whom would otherwise receive nothing for the holidays. Each child receives new toys, books, warm clothes and personal care products. We also supply dozens of Tribal programs and schools with equipment, supplies, coats, shoes and educational materials.” They are partnered with First Book and one of my favorite stations in the warehouse is the book corner. But I noticed a need for books for older kids, and when I saw WABANAKI BLUES by Melissa Zobel at a local bookstore, I picked up a copy and dropped it off at hawkwing. Stealth. Guerilla. Kindness.

 

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Okay, you put on a pin, and you bought a book. What else? I thought about the Syrian refugee family, new to my town, sponsored in their transition by IRIS (Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services) and supported by my place of worship. I had been meaning to say a formal “hello and welcome.” This would probably be a good time for me to take them cookies. Making the cookies was easy (and delish). Taking them to the door was harder. I wasn’t sure how much English they knew. Would they be confused about who I was, what I was doing there? Turns out holding a Tupperware of baked goods is the universal sign for “I’m here to say hello.” I got smiles. I got introductions. I got invited in.

I know there are many people whose opinions differ from mine on the topic of immigration and resettlement. I would implore those interested to read the Time Magazine article: This is how the Syrian Refugee Screening Process Works. “Of all the categories of persons entering the U.S., these refugees [people from Syria] are the single most heavily screened and vetted.” – Jana Mason, senior adviser to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Picture the kids from Aleppo you’ve seen, covered in ash from bombing raids. Now picture them living next to and playing on the Hubbard Green in Glastonbury, CT. Which would you want if it was your child?

We must put education before fear. We must see each other as human beings. Cookie-eating, book-reading, family-loving, human beings. My way of doing that is going to be with this idea of Guerilla Kindness. I’m going to be a mobile irregular force of small hit-and-run acts of kindness. And I’m going to be kind to you no matter who you voted for. Or how you worship. Or where you came from. Or who you love. And you can’t stop me.

Like a friend’s yard sign says:

“🇺🇸  we treat all people with dignity regardless of origin, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation or political views ”

 

Join me?

 

carmagnet

 

 

 

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The Story of a Story

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The POP of a champagne cork is one of my favorite sounds. There really is no time when that thoop isn’t signaling a special occasion. And last month, I got to pop open a bottle I’d been holding onto for a long time: the one that signified the sale of my first book!

I am thrilled to share here on the blog that SAY MY NAME, a middle grade novel, will be published in fall 2017 by Little Pickle Press.

Eleven-year-old Rory Mitchell can’t tell anyone his name. He’s not in a witness protection program. He’s not mute. He just can’t say Rs. Sixth grade means big problems for Rory. Not only did his former friend Brent share Rory’s most embarrassing secret, but he has also joined forces with the group of kids most likely to ruin Rory’s day. Then Brent sustains a serious brain injury in a bike accident. Rory has trouble feeling any sympathy for the “new Brent,” whose impulsive behavior and sudden mood swings make him the target of the same kind of unwanted attention Rory has endured. All Rory wants to do is play his guitar and get lost in heavy metal music. But when he is paired with Brent for a school project on Muhammad Ali, Rory must decide which is worse: being bullied, or being the bully.

This story is a culmination of many facets of my life, and is a loving nod to the field of speech-language pathology, which I practiced clinically for several years. (The speech pathologist in the book is way cooler than me, which is one of the fun things about writing fiction!)

There was a long gestation period from my inception of the idea to the signing of my contract, because I had so much to learn about writing a novel before I could really get to the heart of this one. This is not an exhaustive list of what went on, but here are some highlights of how this book came to be:

April 2012: Began first draft of a middle grade novel called “The Wicked Westerlys.” Only four chapters are written. In part because there is essentially no plot. But, a few interesting characters emerge. One of them is a boy who can’t say his own name because he has a speech impediment. (“Maybe: Rory.”)

September 2012: First document titled SAY MY NAME saved on computer named. It contains two chapters, and sketchy notes for a third.

Fall 2012: Struggling to make Rory a more complex character, I’m hit with a wave of inspiration when I go to see a 6th grade production of Cinderella. The boy who plays the prince is pronouncing R’s as W’s. And he has the voice of an angel and is rockin’ the part. I suddenly see the possibility of Rory being so much more than his speech impairment.

Late 2012/Early 2013: Begin reading almost exclusively middle grade novels. Read, read, read, and try to delve into what makes this category unique, and what is working in recently published books. Write. Chapter by chapter, my own manuscript begins to take shape. The rough draft coming out is not pretty. It’s like I’m moving in the pitch dark, feeling around for the plot, the story arc, the heart.

April 2013: Give myself the permission and gift of a writing retreat, where I hunker down and get to THE END of my crappy first draft. Give to a one trusted “non-writing” friend and her ‘intended audience’-aged kid for feedback. They are kind and encouraging.

May 2013: After submitting the first 25 pages to a contest, I find out at the regional NESCBWI conference that SAY MY NAME has won the Ruth Lander’s Glass Scholarship.

Summer, Fall 2013: Share bit by bit with my critique group. Revise. Revise. Angst. Revise.

November 2013: Enter the first 250 words of SAY MY NAME in the Baker’s Dozen auction (an online contest) on the blog called Miss Snark’s First Victim. Several agents “bid” on what portion of the manuscript they’d be willing to read (from five pages, to 10, to 25, to the full!). The agent who requested the full did not ultimately offer representation, but the auction was also about getting feedback from a variety of people on my first 250 words. Out of twenty critique comments, 13 people suggested putting more action up front. I studied the feedback and honed in on this message: “Start on the first day of school with the character trying to say his name.” So I did. And it made the beginning sooo much better.

Winter/Spring 2013-2014: Revise, revise, angst, revise. Continue sharing chapters with critique group, and revising accordingly.

Summer 2014: My manuscript has been wrestled into good enough shape to share it in full with a small group of critique partners. They provide thoughtful, deep, painful, helpful, invaluable critique. I also share again with a very few non-writing friends, and ‘intended audience’-aged kids. Their feedback is also extremely helpful. THE IMPORTANCE OF THIS STEP CANNOT BE OVERSTATED. THANK YOU, MY LOVELIES!

Late summer 2014: Begin submitting first polished chapters to agents. Begin receiving long line of rejection letters.

 

Fall 2014: Feel nearly panicky every time I think about all the work that still needs to be done to revise this manuscript into “ready to submit” shape.

Winter 2014: Go to the inaugural Fireside Retreat (a retreat of my own making that is sponsored by the empty home of my snowbird parents) with close writing friends. Tell them I am scared. Drink wine. Steel myself. Finally get started on a close-to -last BIG revision.

2015: Get really, really used to rejections. Revise and tweak whenever a rejection comes with feedback, which starts to happen more often. Am told it is a really good thing to get personal rejections. Cry.

Fall 2015: Another retreat with writer friends. Open my email to read a recent rejection to them in the hopes of getting some sympathy. Instead, see a note from a small publisher who tells me my manuscript is going to their ACTUAL ACQUISITIONS MEETING. Freak out.

Winter/Spring 2015: Hold breath.

June 2016: The publisher has that actual meeting. THEY OFFER TO BUY SAY MY NAME.

Summer 2016: Contract is signed! Spend time celebrating with friends and family. Cherish each happy moment. Rest a bit in the realization of this dream. Savor.

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Fall 2016: And what happens now? I am awaiting notes from an editor, which will lead to a revision period of unknown length and depth. Am I nervous? You bet! Might I parlay this into another ‘writing retreat’? You bet! Am I thrilled to be sharing the story of this story with you today? You bet!

Thanks for being on my cheer squad, you faithful blog readers. Writing takes practice and I’ve had so much fun practicing it here. To be sure, I will update my progress here as progress is made. I hope you won’t get sick of me, and I hope you all stick around and maybe even come out to clink glasses with me and have your own sip of champagne next fall when SAY MY NAME enters the world in book form.

About Little Pickle Press: Little Pickle Press is dedicated to creating media that fosters kindness in young people—and doing so in a manner congruent with that mission. Lee Wind (head of the SCBWI Team Blog) wrote a nice article for website (Cynsations) about Little Pickle Press. Click here to find out more about this socially-conscious publishing house!

 

Hi. How are you?

A few years ago, my email send out the dread “viral spam.” Every single person in my address book (friends, acquaintances, professional contacts) got the same message:

Hi. How are you? http://www.spamwebsiteaddresshere.com

Spam

A few people responded right away to tell me “your email has been hacked.” I spent the morning hoping the all the other recipients recognized it as spam and did not click on the accompanying link. I was annoyed, but not too worried about this modern day inconvenience we’re all pretty used to seeing by now.

Then, that afternoon, I got a response from someone I had once done some volunteer work for.

Thank you for asking. I am hanging in there. This has been a really difficult time.

Oh. Now, a dilemma. Should I come clean that it hadn’t really been me asking after her well-being? When I saw her later that day in the school parking lot, the answer became clear. Instead of telling her the truth, I gave her a hug. She had had a death in the family, and was in the early stages of processing that grief. She needed my hug more than she needed to hear an explanation of my email being hacked.

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The next day, I got another response.

I’m okay. We’re all getting used to our new normal. And I am finally feeling a little bit better. My face was so swollen – it was scary for awhile there. 

Oh. One of my precious young cousins, who was living through a major change in her family structure, had just found out the hard way that she is allergic to mangoes. We had a nice email exchange where hopefully I said a few encouraging words that helped in the moment.

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These two responses prompted me to think about my “address book” in a different way. I sat down and thoughtfully read through each name. A few were deleted (e.g. the electrician in the city I hadn’t lived in in 5 years). A few stood out in my mind. People who were special to me that I had lost touch with because…life/parenthood/craziness. Then I hit the compose button, for real, and sent a message. The same one I’m sending you now:

Hi. How are you?

 

 

Author Stacy Mozer finds THE SWEET SPOT

First Base: Welcome today to author Stacy Mozer, and a big “outta the park” congratulations on her middle grade novel THE SWEET SPOT, which debuts 3/25/16! Stacy doesn’t know this but she was one of the first people I met in SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators). She was giving a talk on critique techniques/critique groups at a conference. I remember thinking, “I don’t even know if I belong here.” Six years later, I’m still a part of the same critique group that I joined based on her encouragement.
Second Base: Let’s turn our attention to THE SWEET SPOT!

When thirteen-year-old Sam Barrette’s baseball coach tells her that her attitude’s holding her back, she wants to hit him in the head with a line drive. Why shouldn’t she have an attitude? As the only girl playing in the 13U league, she’s had to listen to boys and people in the stands screaming things like “Go play softball,” all season, just because she’s a girl. Her coach barely lets her play, even though she’s one of the best hitters on the team.

All stakes now rest on Sam’s performance at baseball training camp. But the moment she arrives, miscommunication sets the week up for potential disaster. Placed at the bottom with the weaker players, she will have to work her way up to A league, not just to show Coach that she can be the best team player possible, but to prove to herself that she can hold a bat with the All-Star boys.

 
Third Base: Stacy kindly answered my questions about herself, her writing, and THE SWEET SPOT.
NT: How did your writing career begin? What other kinds of hats have you worn in your professional life?
SBM: My writing career began when a group of third grade students told me that there was no way a real author who wrote real books could possibly revise as much as I asked them to revise. I told them that I would write a book to find out. That book is still in revision. It’s been over ten years. In my professional life I have only been an elementary teacher but that has always come with many hats; teacher, mentor, curriculum writer, therapist, counselor, reader, mathematician, scientist…you name it, elementary school teachers do it every day.
NT: What were you like as a kid? Were you sporty like Sam? Would you have been friends with her?
SBM: I was a pretty quiet kid. The smart, bookish, teacher’s pet type. I was not an athlete. I loved baseball, but as a Mets fan, not a player. I admired the sporty athletic girls and would go to their games, but was never one myself. So I might have wanted to be friends with Sam, but unless she was also a singer or an drama geek, I may not have had a chance to have met her.
NT: What kind of books did you like as a 13-year-old?
SBM: My main genre to read has always been high fantasy. I loved getting whisked away in imagined worlds full of adventure. At 14 I think I also loved The Sweet Valley High books and other books about girls who were in high school.
NT:  What are you working on next?
SBM: Right now I’m working on book 2 in The Sweet Spot series, which is called The Perfect Trip. It will be releasing from Spellbound River this time next year. I am also still revising the middle grade high fantasy book I wrote those many years ago when my class challenged me.
NT: Any advice for other writers and creative types?
SBM: It will sound cliche, but make sure to never give up on this dream. It is so easy to want to give up. Publishing is a business full of rejection and it moves as fast as a snail. Try to write because you love it and the rest will come — it just might take a long time. As the critique group coordinator for NESCBWI I also have to remind your readers of how important it is to find your tribe as you move forward. Whether it’s people you meet with to discuss your work or just a supportive group of writer friends, no one gets this the way other writers do.
 

Home Run: THE SWEET SPOT ebook is available for pre-order on Kindle at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01D8VYWK6 and in iBooks

Or, in paperback (tomorrow) from Spellbound River Press  http://www.SpellboundRiver.com
For signed paperback copies, contact Diane’s Books in Greenwich 203-869-1515. Ask for Maria or Theresa.
 
Extra Innings: You can enter below to win your own copy of THE SWEET SPOT. Just click on the Rafflecopter link to enter!
 
Rafflecopter Giveaway:
Stacy Barnett Mozer is a third grade teacher and a mom. She started writing books when a class of students told her that there was no way that a real author who wrote real books could possibly revise their work as much as she asked them to revise. She’s been revising her own work ever since. 
Social Media Links:
 
 
 

 

Wishful Adoption

I met Addie last summer. She rode around in the car with me, and I fell in love with her 12-year-old self. She is funny, resilient, and in need of love and a stable home. I would have adopted her on the spot, if it had been possible.

Months later, I’m still thinking about her. I’ve actually caught myself wondering how she’s doing. That might seem reasonable, except for the fact that Addie is not real.

She’s actually the main character in the middle grade novel WAITING FOR NORMAL, which I listened to on CD.

Normal

From Goodreads:

Addie is waiting for normal.

But Addie’s mom has an all-or-nothing approach to life: a food fiesta or an empty pantry, jubilation or gloom, her way or no way.

All or nothing never adds up to normal.

All or nothing can’t bring you all to home, which is exactly where Addie longs to be, with her half sisters, every day.

In spite of life’s twists and turns, Addie remains optimistic. Someday, maybe, she’ll find normal.

Leslie Connor has created an inspiring novel about one girl’s giant spirit. waiting for normal is a heartwarming gem.

I meet a lot of characters in books that I’d like to know in the real world, but Addie was and is special to me. One reviewer called her a “21st century Pollyanna” (like it was a bad thing!) which helped me realize why I loved her so much. She takes these crap situations life keeps throwing at her, and she never stops believing things might turn out okay.

I also fell in love with the two people who run the gas station across the street from Addie’s trailer. Both Sula and Elliot are well-crafted examples of how small acts of kindness can make a big impact on someone’s life. Addie’s stepfather is also a rock-star, someone you hope does exist in the real world, because you know he’s so needed. But most of the time, Addie’s mom’s erratic behavior made me want to reach into that book and pluck Addie out so she could safely stay with me.

Oh, Addie. Yes, I will adopt you.

The problem is, you will have to share a bedroom with 9-year-old Ada. Ada’s mom makes Addie’s mom look like a PTA committee chairwoman. Like Addie, I met Ada when she spent a few weeks riding around in the car with me. (Maybe my problem is listening to these stories via CD – I hear the character’s ‘voices’ and become convinced they’re real?) Again, we have a special child fighting crappy odds. But then WWII gets layered on. I became frantic wondering how I could fast track Ada’s adoption.

TheWar

From Goodreads:

An exceptionally moving story of triumph against all odds set during World War 2, from the acclaimed author of Jefferson’s Sons and for fans of Number the Stars.

Nine-year-old Ada has never left her one-room apartment. Her mother is too humiliated by Ada’s twisted foot to let her outside. So when her little brother Jamie is shipped out of London to escape the war, Ada doesn’t waste a minute—she sneaks out to join him.

So begins a new adventure of Ada, and for Susan Smith, the woman who is forced to take the two kids in. As Ada teaches herself to ride a pony, learns to read, and watches for German spies, she begins to trust Susan—and Susan begins to love Ada and Jamie. But in the end, will their bond be enough to hold them together through wartime? Or will Ada and her brother fall back into the cruel hands of their mother?
 
This masterful work of historical fiction is equal parts adventure and a moving tale of family and identity—a classic in the making.

Ada is the opposite of a Pollyanna. She never really expects anything good to happen at all. And when good things do happen, she is deeply mistrustful. Being treated with kindness is especially hard for her. The descriptions of how her caretaker Susan (who never asked for or wanted Ada and her brother) deals with Ada’s outbursts and anxieties are beautiful, and wild, and real. The author really does an amazing job of showing the good, the bad, and the ugly of what happens when someone opens their home and heart to a child who has been wounded emotionally.

I’m not sure I could have done as good a job as Susan in helping Ada, so it’s probably best my adoption plans did not go through. Plus, it may have been hard to time travel back to the 1940s. But in my mind, Ada lives at the horse farm down the road, and Addie is a just a few hours car ride away. I wish I could have them both here, so I could give them the hugs I’ve been saving up for them. I thank Leslie Connor and Kimberly Brubaker Bradley for writing these stories and introducing me to these two exceptional girls.

WILL’S WORDS: Interview with children’s author Jane Sutcliffe

The Resolution I’m Glad I Didn’t Keep

Not all New Year’s resolutions are meant to be kept. Some years you make a really good one, and you keep it, and all turns out right in the end. I hope that is how 2016 will be for you!

But sometimes, we start down a path we were never meant to be on.

Sermon: God’s Way or No Way | We Your People, Ours the Journey

That’s why it’s important to watch for the signs that you’re not heading the direction you’re meant to. Then, give up that resolution and start another. There are no rules about what day you will resolve to be awesome. In fact, you have 361 more days to dedicate to being your best self.  IMG_3304In late 2014, I had some tough lessons. My bleeding heart is a trusting little pumper, and when faced with unpredictable and upsetting events, I have practically no defenses around it. Where others would stand fierce with resolve and anger, I tend to react with self-doubt and sadness. And it feels awful.

My warrior friends circled me with the protection I wasn’t able to muster myself. I wanted to be like that. I wanted to be like my lawyer friend, who calmly took in all the facts and reacted with clear counsel. I wanted to be like my bad-ass friends, who’s fuck that attitude was a Teflon shield held above me. I wanted to be all logic and toughness. No more Mrs. Nice. It just wasn’t working for me. The pain was too icky.

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So, along came 2015. And this was going to be the year. I was done with trust. Defenses were up. New people were to be regarded with an abundance of caution. Old alliances were under the microscope. I was hyper-vigilant and in full retreat. No way was I going to be blindsided again. I was going to be ready! I actually resolved to be less trusting and for God’s sake stop being so nice all the time. My cynical, logical, what-have-I-been-telling-you-all-along husband rejoiced.

And it felt good, at first. And then it felt awful. Even worse than the awful I was trying to protect myself from. It’s really hard work trying to be someone you’re not, too. It’s exhausting.

IMG_2606Also, I could not stop thinking about a woman profiled on Humans of New York in Sept. 2014. Cathy is the director of the Confident Children out of Conflict (CCC) Center in Juba, “a place where displaced children in South Sudan are given shelter, an education, affection, and a second chance.” This is the quote that would not leave my mind:

Often their trauma is so bad, that when the children first arrive, they can be very hateful toward me. But I feel blessed by the hate. Because I know it’s part of the healing process. And if they need someone to hate so that they can heal, I’m glad it can be me.”

Photo by Brandon Stanton, Humans of New York.

 

In the first few months of my ‘resolution,’ I thought she was on my mind as a warning: don’t be like her. She is going to drown in her own kindness.  But the more I began to question my new resolve to be less trusting and kind, the more her message turned into something I was supposed to learn from, not run from.

Life has been pretty picnic-like so far for me. And maybe that’s why I’m so tenderhearted…because I haven’t had to fight and claw against adversity. I had always thought that was a weakness of mine. But for the first time, I was starting to see that maybe I was supposed to be this way. Things were supposed to turn out for me so that I would have the openness to help other people.

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“If they need someone to hate so that they can heal, I’m glad it can be me.” That is bad-ass and Teflon tough.

So, I switched up my resolution. Spending so much energy trying to be something I’m not, in the hopes of not getting hurt, was depleting me. Just like Stella and her groove, I needed to get my nice back. I started consciously thinking of trust and kindness as strengths, not weaknesses. And, I started to feel a whole lot better.

You can protect yourself and be kind at the same time. Just remember that everyone is fighting their own battles. Maybe you could be the one that reaches out in love and puts a hole in their armor. And if that doesn’t work, walk away. And bring your bad-ass friends with you. You’re gonna need them.

IMG_4540This year, I hope you walk towards the person you were always meant to be. We all have a place, and we’re all needed. The bleeding hearts need the cynics to pull us up from the depths we plunge into. You tough ones need us Pollyannas to remind you that it’s okay to trust sometimes. 

If your resolution isn’t leading you towards what resonates in your core, give it up! I know I’m glad I did.

I’m Still Thinking of You

I’m Thinking Of You

Today marks the three year anniversary of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Last year, I worked through my sadness by writing a post titled “I’m Thinking Of You.” Today those words are on a field trip over on Mamalode.com. Won’t you please come have a look, and share the message?

I’m Thinking Of You

Like me, you probably have friends and family that are so often on your mind and heart that you can have whole conversations with them without ever picking up the phone. I truly believe there are more positive vibes in this world than negative events.

To anyone struggling with sadness and challenges right now: You are not alone. You’d be surprised how many people are thinking of you right now.

And to the families of Newtown: We’re thinking of you not only today,  but always.

 

 

Interested in turning your good thoughts into positive action? Click the links below to learn more.

Everytown for Gun Safety

“The reasons for gun violence are complex, but real change on a few issues could save lives.”

Text “ENOUGH” to 64433

Sandy Hook Promise

“I promise to do all I can to protect children from gun violence by encouraging and supporting solutions that create safer, healthier homes, schools and communities.”

Sign their petition to pass mental health reform here.

26 ACTS – Changing the World one kind act at a time

“Do one act of kindness for each of the lives taken at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012.

Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America

“Every action, no matter how small, helps us build safer communities and a brighter future. Together, we can end gun violence.”

Sponsoring Orange Walks to honor all of the lives taken by gun violence in America, and show just how determined we are to end it.

Other actions:

Consider writing your representatives in government to voice your concerns. Contact information is easy to find here:

Senators

Congressional Representatives