American Writers Museum in Chicago

A visit to the American Writers Museum at 180 N Michigan Avenue in Chicago with a fellow writer is the source of renewed inspiration and energy for writing and reading.

The museum, which opened in May 2017, has a variety of exhibits including an entire room devoted to picture books with large displays of cover art and a library for families to enjoy reading time together.

A special exhibit dedicated to Laura Ingalls Wilder is captivating for anyone who has read the books, watched the TV show, or sees themselves as an explorer or pioneer. We were especially captivated by the panel about how Laura became the “eyes” for her older sister when Mary became blind from illness. This is likely the reason Laura became such a wonderful storyteller.

My friend and I were reminded of so many favorite books and authors from high school and college days, and were also surprised at how many more we need to explore.

It’s never too late

While visiting former colleagues last week, I saw this quote on the board in 7th grade. I’m a living example of this quote even though I’d never heard it before. Not that I wasn’t proud of my previous accomplishments, but the starting over part speaks loudly to me.

I’ve always been a fan of F. Scott Fitzgerald since reading The Great Gatsby in high school. After that, I devoured his other novels and short story collections.

My novel is set in Minnesota (his birthplace) and the high school is named for him. The main character is even reading one of his books. 😊📚

You can go home again

I was lucky 🍀💚🍀 enough to spend a decade at a great school with fabulous colleagues, the most supportive families, and children that filled my heart every single day.

I’ve been gone for 17 months but whenever I return to Chicago, a priority for me is reconnecting with the children who made getting up at 5:30 worthwhile. I may no longer remember all of their names, but I remember stories about each one – how hard they worked, how genuinely sweet and caring they were, and sometimes how challenging and challenged they were.

Yesterday (in my first 24 hours back in town) I visited school and was made to feel like a celebrity as a chorus of voices called my name. 💕💓 💕

Children who I knew from kindergarten and first grade are now eighth graders and beyond. I met kindergarteners yesterday that are the baby of a family I’ve known since before they were born. The magic of children never fails to impress and inspire me.

And in a perfect twist of fate, yesterday was the Scholastic Book Fair which is also something I treasure. Buying Matt De La Peña’s book and sharing it with the sweetest children in the world is a new memory for me to treasure.

Nature does not hurry

“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.” – Lao Tzu Words from an ancient Chinese writer and philosopher.

These two rocks were found during excavation for the garage we are building. The beauty and uniqueness of each have earned them a place on the shelf where I write. If you look closely at the heart, there are embedded fossils. Can you imagine how long this rock has been developing?

The other is a lovely piece with amethyst quartz. 💜💜 It’s also slightly heart-shaped depending upon the angle.

“Speak” #Metoo

“He stares at me without talking. He is not as tall as my memories, but still as loathsome.” – from “Speak”

The stories that are finally being told, some from several decades ago, are all different and yet somehow the same. A person in power or strength of some kind exerting that dominance over another. The victims are often young, unable to make their voice heard in the moment or maybe for years afterward.

In the past few days, a holier-than-thou Alabama judge and politician has been accused of multiple abuses of power, including by a fourteen year old girl. Am I surprised? No, because it seems to me the ones who put themselves on the moral high ground against women’s rights and gay rights usually have something to hide.

The list of celebrities is long. Again, I think “is this surprising?” Not really, because abuse of power is rampant and the legend of “the casting couch” is based on plenty of actual events.

This week I read “Speak” by Laurie Halse Anderson. An excellent book that is not only well written, but shares the feelings and physical, emotional, and intellectual response that all of those who are now bravely coming forward have been through.

A Writer’s Life – a Nanowrimo reflection

I’ve immersed myself in writing over the last year, making connections and friends at conferences, retreats, and social media. My craft has improved along the way, as I have written three picture books and a novel. I’ve learned that revision can be painful but the finished product is better for it. I’ve described it as “performing surgery on a loved one.” It’s hard to tear apart a story that was lovingly created but it’s all part of the process. My first picture book has gone through more revisions than I can count and it’s unrecognizable from where it began. As much as I loved it in the beginning, it’s better now for 1000 reasons.

One benefit of being a writer – I consider reading part of my job. I’ve always enjoyed reading, but now its no longer a guilty pleasure as I’ve incorporated it into my daily routine. It’s a part of becoming a better writer. I’ve kept a list this year of all the books I’ve read or listened to. The list is over 40 books and I know my “voice” as a writer has grown after reading some great writing.

This is my first time participating in NaNoWriMo and it’s been interesting to connect with other writers who are in different genres with different styles of writing. I’m on target to reach my word count goal but even if I don’t, the quality is the most important piece and I’m confident I’ll get there.