COME BLOG WITH ME!

I’m so EXCITED!

Calbery presentation

That is me presenting on stage

Today is a big day!

I have the honor and privilege to share my love for blogging with over 60 young 3rd-6th grade writers at the Lansing School District Calbery Award Reception. Over 900 students throughout the district enter wonderful writing selections in a variety of genres including poetry, fiction, and non-fiction.  A teacher started this prestigious writing award in 1970. Calbery comes from merging Caldecott and Newberry  which represents top awarded Children’s literature.

IMAG0094Think Pulitzer for kidlit.

I have presented at numerous conferences all around the United States on teacher best practices, education reform, literacy, and student engagement, but my greatest love and passion is working directly with young people.

IMAG0091This is a true honor to share my love for writing and role as a blogger with students and teachers today.

calbery winner

I hope to inspire them to push forward in their writing goals and who knows maybe one day they will dedicate their first  book to me or name their child after me or give me a special shout out when they win a Caldecott, Newberry, Coretta Scott King, or Pulitzer.

(I believe in dreaming big.)

I decided to make the presentation interactive, therefore I am posting this blog live as I present.  Isn’t that cool??  I only have 15 minutes so I decided to focus the presentation on several important points that will showcase how wonderful it is to blog.

Yes, I know 15 minutes is fast so here it goes.

Blogging is great because you get to…..

  • Write about what interests  YOU!  (You already write enough for teachers)
  • Create friendships with those across the globe.  Shout out to asummerbunny in Sweden,  and others in Brazil, Italy,  and the Philippines who follow my page.

  • have a personal platform to share your gifts and talents with the world.  It could be cooking, photography, sports, books, writing or anything else you can think of.  With over 3 million blogs and counting I’m sure there’s something for everyone.
  • become a better writer.  It disciplines you to write regularly, read regularly, revise, polish, and meet deadlines.  All necessary skills to continue to grow as a writer.

Blogging is life changing!  But remember its not Facebook or Twitter, I like to think of it as a place where serious writers come to create- Isn’t that right Josh Funk (Lady Pancake and French Toast, all good stuff.  bruh-ha-ha)

Really its whatever you like, and remember Writers Write Often and blogging is a great way to do!

April ’15 Readings

Because my right brain and left brain doesn’t always choose to cooperate, I’ve spent far more time reading during my querying challenge month than writing.  Querying is stressful and reading is calming.  Querying is nail-biting, reading is tranquil.  Reading sweeps me a way yet still makes me feel I’m working toward improving my craft as a writer.

As I’ve become an old pro at reading like a writer, each new book teaches me something different about being an author.    Therefore, I have decided to keep a log of what I’m reading more consistently to continue to support our blog community’s growth as literate individuals and writers. I love all the great challenges and opportunities to have agents interact with followers found on other blogs but let’s face it with a kid at every academic level, a demanding college administrator job, and over 25 books at various stages of completion, this is all I can offer as my small contribution.

Like stated many times before, I devour books.  I typically read anywhere between two to three books a month and that doesn’t include all the children’s PBs,  blogs postings, magazine articles and the legendary New Yorker which is a pure rites of passage for me.  Think of watching a movie with Denzel, Leonardo, and Blair while indulging in a box of the most decadent Godiva chocolates. Every cell within your body sings the Ave Maria chorus like angels.  Pure Opulence!

That’s the New Yorker! But that’s for another posting, on another day!

This is what I read this month.

  What I know For Sure by Oprah Winfrey

When I was a young girl, all I ever wanted for Christmas were books and my mother would buy me many and by New Year’s I would have completed reading them all.  This still happens; only my oldest daughter typically buys the book gifts.  When I received this book, I couldn’t devour it right away.  I thought the experience deserved more richness than that.     I felt I should have a ball gown, a harpist in the background, surrounded by bushels of rose bouquets and Calla Lilies to read Oprah’s first book.   Yet since none of this was about to happen I decided to read it eventually.  It was everything I thought it would be from Oprah.  However I did want so much more of her anecdotal, biographical stories.  I feel like she thinks she’s an open book so she didn’t share a tremendous amount about her personally. I did love her “sistergirl” stories of her and Gayle.  I just never get enough of those two.

Oprah seems to find more value in the nuggets given to purpose, identity, life’s journey, and a life well lived from all the great teachers, philosophers and minds throughout the globe.  That’s all well and good, however I believe growing up with heroes is important and the best learning comes from them.  Plus to be honest I just don’t agree with some of their teachings and philosophical mumbo jumbo. Although you still grow even in the space of understanding why you disagree.  Her accomplishments definitely honors her as one of my most prolific heroes and I would have loved to glean from her experiences far more throughout the reading of the book than allowed.

Don’t wait for the harpist and Calla Lilies. Read and grow from the book today.

(include the tea (which I didn’t know they had)

 

 

Instinct: The Power to Unleash Your Inborn Drive

by T.D. Jakes

I have bought several T. D. Jakes books because I absolutely honor him as a prolific leader in every arena known to man, but to be honest I have not been a fan of his writing.  A bit over my head and I don’t know if this was purposely or just because I needed to develop more.  Instincts is still a bit heavy    on the adjectives and adverb usage but what an amazing, timely reminder that within each of us we have the ability to navigate instinctly  through any terrain we cross in our careers, with our families, in our personal lives,  in our talents and purposes.  We truly are the CEO of our lives and as such God has given us all things pertaining to life and godliness that we may have need of.  Bishop Jakes reminds us of this over and over again with a back drop of his experiences on an African safari.  Thoroughly he illustrates how to use your instincts to move forward in accomplishing your goals.  Some of my “Can I get an Amen’  moments came with “Builders and Bankers”, the Urgency of Now, Treetop Instincts and the most Important and most shout ‘til the walls fall down truth, “Instincts Execute”!    If you need a great kick in the buttocks to move forward in life and career, read Instincts!

I was shouting PREACH BISHOP! all throughout the reading and was thrilled to pass the book on to my twenty one year old daughter who has just been hired into a great company, with benefits and all yall.  Talk about timely.  This book will move you forward with confidence.

Native Son by Richard Wright  (The Restored Text Established by The Library of America Edition)

I typically try to get a classic author in at least every other month.  However the experience is usually difficult, surreal, and definitely not for the faint at heart for several reasons.  The topics are truly stark and the novels are LOOOOONG.    I often wonder how the editorial process took place in those days because these novels are whoppers.  I’m talking 200,000 plus words.  In the great words of Rowley of Diary of A Wimpy Kid “Zoo-We-Momma!”

This edition is valuable in the sense that Richard Wright has all his notes and research that helped in developing the novel included, even how he came up with the main character Bigger Thomas.  I felt as though I was at a literary event (which I love) and Mr. Wright was personally speaking to me about his writing journey in this annotated section of the book.  Priceless.  The novel is a little agenda driven and if you don’t find credence in the agenda it can be overwhelming.  I find credence!   But how relatable and truly timeless the work is, AMAZING.

Reading Native Son with today’s news headline as a backdrop is almost too heart pounding to bear.  But I absolutely loved the pacing, the language, the fluidity and rhythm of the writing.  It captivates and hold you entranced as the story resonates long after you have exhaustively put it down.  I found myself screaming out to Bigger to make different choices.  I also found it incredible how an author can create a character that you on the surface should utterly despise but still can sympathize and rationalize with his choices.  What a difficult discussion I would like to have with others who read this.   After reading a climatic point in the story I completed a piece for my short story anthology trying to mimic the emotion, pace, and energy.  I don’t know if I nailed it but it felt good stretching myself in trying.

Native Son is definitely not for the faint at heart but if you want to take a roller coaster ride in your emotions and grow as a writer this is the novel to read.

Share what you are reading in comments.

The Whisper

Have you ever heard the whisper?

Or felt the quiet nudge to keep moving forward?

For my youngest who loves WWE

Or perhaps received a ‘smack upside the head’ confirmation that you’re on the right track?

In the past two years, I’ve truly made a commitment to develop my craft as a professional writer and move forward in my writing career. Because of this, I have experienced all of the above.

When do I experience this, you question? When I plant my butt in seat and move diligently forward with my writing.

And I mean writing, not surfing, not hobnobbing with the community, not reading blog postings, not researching agents, but actually writing.  Pen on paper writing.  Fingers on keys writing.   I experience intuitive, instinctive reminders that I’m headed in the right direction and accomplishment is right around the corner.

This is the internal GPS voice I love to hear.  Unlike that crazed voice on my car’s GPS that flubbers nonsense as I careen into oncoming traffic because she didn’t alert me of a turn in enough time.

The experience typically goes like this.  I get an idea and I decide to develop it.  Not in my mind but in actuality.  Once I get it pretty solidified or even near completion, (hammering out 1500 words per day baby) and walk away, I’m rewarded with a seal of approval to combat doubt that may stem from the process.

It’s like when you buy a new car for yourself that you really never noticed before, but all of a sudden you notice the car is everywhere.  Even your neighbor down the street has one.

Here are more current examples:

  • I decided to write about nature and suddenly butterflies were floating everywhere, almost taunting me. “write it, go ahead write it,” in their wee, tiny butterfly voices.
  • My new MG I have been submitting is called Spider Monkey Attack and lo and behold, there’s a new Disney movie about the wonder of monkeys coming soon to theaters.
  • Also my MG WIP has a spy element to it and there on one of my blogs were the very helpful and resourceful Banyard & Holmes. They provide great information on the ‘spy’ profession.

The still, small voice that confirms your steps are ordered!  This phenomena is universal and does not only apply to writers and their writing diligence.  However, anyone flowing in their God given purpose experiences this.  It’s the surety that you are doing exactly what you were created to do.  That kind of peace, matched with joy because you’re graced to live a purposeful life.  The wonderful thing for me is that I get to hear this whisper in more ways than one.

As a mother….As an Educator….As a writer…. As a wife.

I know these roles are my calling in life and as long as I strive to persist within each role with due diligence.  God is pleased and life is good.

Query Update as of  4/14/15:

20 Submissions

0 rejections

In the comments, reveal when you hear the whisper?

Week 1: Query Challenge Update

Ok, so the big question of the day or week or even month is ……

How’s the challenge going? 

Long pause….

Utter, stutter, utter, stutter, no words…

If we get right to the numbers here they are.

Queried:  15 sent out

Rejections:  2 received

Its weird because within a day or two of the challenge I knew I had bitten off far more than I could chew.  5 queries a day what the, was I thinking.  I am far too thorough and detail oriented about everything I do to move that fast.  I really needed a few days to figure out my strategy and then the rhythm I felt would develop over the course of the challenge.  And so far so good.  I feel like I’m flowing.

Is it a good place to be flowing?

Yes, it forces me to keep diligent and not think the thoughts that invade my mind space.

Thoughts like what?

Thoughts like (hopefully no agent is offended but it’s my party and I’ll vent if I want to),

…ten years ago I queried one editor like a fresh fish out of water without researching any rules and regulations and I received the nicest rejection letter ever.  It threw me for a loop because I had never received one before but I knew from that letter the editor read my book and considered me, the writer, when she wrote the rejection.  Now my thoughts wonder if agents are simply middle men, gatekeepers that may block a true exchange of creativity and feedback. Hmmm.

…Form rejections, what does that mean?  Did you not like the writing, the topic, the characters?  Or hey she didn’t follow a rule so send out the form.  One less in the slush. Hmmm.

I really don’t know but thank goodness I’m not the humble type.  Remember that’s one of my issues I confessed about in the last piece.  Therefore each rejection simply says one less agent to wonder about.  Remember I’ve only received two after 102 who knows what I’ll be feeling.

…OMGosh what was I thinking, does this book suck?  It is not unique, fresh, or even good.  Why am I trying to become a published author anyway?  These thoughts don’t come often but when they come I do have to press through.  One strategy I used was to write another book or two.  Yes I finished two more picture books.  Another strategy was to read at a Women’s Literature Read In at the college I work at.  And when I looked up from the podium, there were people there that specifically came to hear ME.  Take that self-doubt.

….checking out agents’ clients and books to find out if you would fit within their list leads to more questions.  Well let me see, out of the 40 to 50 agents I’ve researched there maybe 4 or 5 that might have an author of color.  Does that mean I don’t fit?  Hmmm.

…..If an agent has never represented an African American author or represented multicultural works what does that mean?  Do they not relate?  Is a lack of African American, Asian American, Mexican American and the list goes on, an indictment on the writers or the agents or the publishing industry?  I don’t know what it means. Hmmm.

—What does actively seeking multicultural authors mean?  Are you as an agency sponsoring special readings or reviews, projects, contests, critiques, or webcasts for aspiring multicultural authors?  Or is seeking multicultural stories/authors just a cool thing to say because “We Need Diverse Books”?

On a positive note, I have had some wonderful epiphanies as well, which include;

…How marvelous and phenomenal it is for me to research an agent and find out they represented many of the books I used as teaching companions to help my students fall in love with Reading.

…..I was able to say thankyou to Elizabeth Harding, Sheldon Fogelman, Liza Pulitzer-Voges, Gina McCoby, and Edward NecarsulmerIV which have all championed multicultural works into publishing and into the hands of my students. What a wonderful legacy.  They are my rock stars.

Yes my sister and I went through a KISS and TWISTED SISTER stage in the 80’s. Two black girls from Detroit. That’s why we need diverse books.

….Querying for me is like eating vegetables and Writing represents everything dessert like a little something sweet, chocolate, peach cobbler, bread pudding, ice cream, pound cake, and sweet potato pie all wrapped up.  I could live off those desserts but it wouldn’t represent balance or health.

…..I can’t write and query at the same time.  Unfortunately querying hinders my new creative juices but it does help me look at what I’m submitting with a more critical, editorial eye.

….I CAN DO THIS!

Strut your stuff. You deserve it!

If you’ve taken on a new challenge in writing or life  tell me about it by leaving a comment.

30 Day Query Challenge

I believe I’m a prolific writer!  This is not a comparison or a boast, it’s just my reality.  Ideas flow into my mind with each morning shower and daily conversations with my nine year old, and by the end of the week, I’ve developed a synopsis and back cover for the story to work from when I have an opportunity to place ideas to paper or laptop. (I use both.)  When that time comes, I usually can produce 1200-1500 words in one sitting.  After 1500 words my brain begins to wander into mush and I need a break.

I never push the writing, it comes naturally and easily so I listen to the creativity and when it tells me to stop.  I stop.   Then after simmering and percolating for a day or two, with new energy I can pick up where I left off and produce another 1200-1500 words.  This might produce a children’s picture book that is way too long and needs editing down.  Or a YA short story or a few chapters of a MG.

  As of yet, I haven’t experienced writer’s block nor have I procrastinated so much that I’m no longer producing anything marketable.  My ‘to be written’ list is as long as my ‘to be read’ list and we know how long those usually are.  Where I’ve become stuck in my publishing journey is in my querying.  I have been actively writing for children for over ten years and I have only queried three agents which has only generated one pretty lovely rejection letter.  My diagnosis is that I’m stuck with how to add that task efficiently within all the other tasks I’m responsible for in my life. Personally, professionally, and writerly.

I’m constantly balancing:

Reading-I complete one to two books a month.

Writing-currently completing my sixth book and I have six works-in-progress

Community Building- I haven’t yet found the right critique group or Beta readers but I belong to the regional SCBWI and I’m envious of the Writer’s Loft so I keep searching.

&

Researching-I’ve discovered some amazing blogs.  Shout out to BentonBooks, Writers in the storm,                                 Jennifer Represents, Kidlit, Cynsations and the list goes on and on.

I recommend them all.

This balancing act often finds me flat on my face with querying.

I am a professional and I don’t want to represent myself poorly in the industry, nor break any of the rules that many agents put out there in interviews and postings.  Mind you, I also have a kid in every academic level which includes college, highschool, junior high, and elementary along with a great  day job with over 40 clients needing attention.

I first discussed this with a new Regional SCBWI accountability comrade, Ruth McNally Barshaw, author and illustrator of the adorable Ellie McDoodle series who blatantly asked me a much needed question after discussing all the books I have in completion or as a WIP.

“Are your books any good?”

“Are you a good writer?”

Wow! Way to get right to the point.

I am no humble one.

I have already prepared my speech for the National Book Award, Golden Kite Award, and the Academies after the books have been adapted into epic movies.  Yes, I know, I know, “Pride comes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall.”  Just after my mansion (from book sales of course) is filled with awards.  Daily I discuss with my 21 year old how I might not make it into heaven because my pridefulness is off the charts.  I really love all I’ve accomplished in life and I love myself.   Humility is something I have to work on and I usually do that with my true blue girlfriends and a gallon of icecream.

Yes, I believe my books are good and my writing is also. So you would have thought I’d respond with an assured and resounding YES!

But when Ruth asked me those two questions all I could answer with was a befuddled IDK.   She suggested I hire someone to edit my work.  Or even a writing expert.

Soon after, I had a fabulous lunch with my writing big sister, Lori Nelson Spielman who is the author of The Life List.  She will be releasing, her second book, Sweet Forgiveness June 2, 2015.  Her third book has already sold and she will be on a several European city tour provided by her German publisher within a few months.

Lori taught me three lessons about querying during lunch, but she also has a great article for writers on her blog.  Check it out here.   

  1. Don’t give exclusives. The process takes way too long, with the exception of your dream agent asking for an exclusive read after reviewing the query. If this occurs be very clear of a strict timeframe of no more than two weeks.  Provide a nudge, then move on.
  2. Use AgentQuery.com or AgentTracker.net to locate a comprehensive list of reputable agents. There are other sites, but these are excellent for me.  com just blogged about other great resources to use.  That information is definitely going into the permanent resource file.
  3. Query, Query, Query. Until you get an offer of representation you are pleased with, continue to query, query, query and write, write, write to produce more and not go crazy while waiting on responses.  Rejection is inevitable, after you have received 50 rejections revamp the query.  After you’ve received 100 rejections, revamp the book.

These lessons have led me to create the 30 Day Query challenge.  I love competition and even a challenge for myself is a yummy pursuit I’m always up for.  Yes I am the crazy, screaming momma at all the sports games my children are a part of.

The 30 Day Query challenge requires me to Query at least five agents each day for 30 days.  And yes this is with extensive research and exceptional professionalism.    I have decided to give my agent super heroes a head start because I first want to thank them for being extraordinary in the quality of literature they place into the hands of young people.

Today I will begin querying 8 agents simply because I’m an overachiever.  If you want to join me in it because querying is your issue check in and let the Querying BEGIN!!!

Think On These Things

I’ve come to understand that I’m a thinker.  I’m always pondering on the inner workings of everything.  I can often be found bewildered about the wonderment of time and space, universal microcosms, the process, the journey and all things both great and small.  And quite frankly it drives me crazy!  That’s one reason why I love my Christian faith so much and the human existence.  Both require you to live by faith and not by sight.  Peace is gained by not always knowing the how or why. Faith forces you to enjoy the journey, regardless of how much you dislike the process.

Life is work.  That’s the bottom line and there’s no getting around it!

There are so many obstacles, situations, traumas and tragedies.  These are oftentimes married to dichotomies, ironies, and paradoxes.  With life there’s death, what to turn to when all is lost, the fight within to persevere.  Tragedies seem to constantly abound and bombard us on CNN and the 24 hour news cycle.

As humans, our global connectedness has caused us to share in one another’s sorrows and lives far too often.  And for a thinker like myself it can be daunting and overwhelming.  But as a Christian I’m reminded to think on these things…..  “whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and praiseworthy!”

I’m glad to report that I have learned this lesson.  It’s being mastered more and more each day along with a book idea.  If you ask me how I know I’ve learned, the example of a recent tragedy is evidence for it.

My family home was broken into while my husband, three children and I slept comfortable in our beds on the upstairs floor.  My purse was stolen along with the car keys and one of our cars.   It was later used in a high speed chase and collision that totaled my husband’s beloved vehicle, an somewhat classic pearl white Cadillac Deville.  By the time my husband discovered the break in, the police had already recovered the car. And by the time we were completing the police report, the police had one suspect in custody and felt the other two would soon be arrested.

Where lies the tragedy, you may question?

The tragedy was that the criminals were 15 and 16.   The reporting officer told us that in our state they would be tried as adults and the minimum sentence for home invasions carry 25 years.          How awful to think of three lives headed down the prison pipeline for a mere 10 minute joy ride.

Now I know it would make more sense to use this platform to soap box the need for stricter laws and to fight for restitution and family responsibility.  But as an educator, and children’ s author I work with youth every day that have no direction or guidance and whose parents have checked out of parenting long ago.  On any given day you might find 10 to 20 young people hanging at our house playing ball on our courts or sucking down Popsicle on our big, wide porch.  My husband and I have a philosophy and vision for ourselves that include the work we do for youth in our community as an educator and a coach.  This philosophy mandates that our home is a safe haven to just be a kid for those who are growing up fast and furious without true guidance.

Marian Wright Edelman coined it best in her book, The Sea is So Wide and My Boat Is So Small.  “God, we have pushed so many of our children into the tumultuous sea of life in small and leaky boats without survival gear and compass.  Forgive us and help them to forgive us.  Help us now to give all our children the anchors of faith and love, the rudders of purpose and hope, the sails of health and education, and the paddles of family and community to keep them safe and strong when life’s sea gets rough.”  

Life can always be worse… or better.  It’s a spectrum of reality and I chose to function on the bright side/glass half full end.  As my husband told my ten year old son, who was experiencing nervousness after the break in, “we can choose to worry about every nuance life throws our way or we can think on the lovely things.”

Our home is a haven.  That’s lovely!

Because it’s a haven we’ve lived quite carelessly over the last few years when it comes to security of our home.  Many of our neighbors are retired and home most days watching pretty diligently over the neighborhood.  One really special neighbor of mine has been given the honorary name, “Eyes of God” because Tiki sees all and knows all. She warns when teenage daughters are home early, strange persons lurk about or even if energy workers are in the vicinity to cut off utilities.  So for many years we’ve been careless about locked doors and windows.    I’m thankful for the 14 years of peace with no criminal activity.  It represents the truth of our urban experience, instead of this one incident defining otherwise.

Like Dory in Finding Nemo, I believe we should all just keep swimmin’ and to help with not drowning I’m thinking on these things:

  • My family wasn’t harmed…That’s Praiseworthy!
  • I’m married to a man that suggested we visit the three young home invaders and pray for them and not a husband that wants to load our home up with firearms…That’s Noble!
  • My family still feels peace in our home of fourteen years and we rejoice with a garment of praise that we have a home…That’s lovely!
  • I can recognize that God has been good to me regardless of the experiences we face. That’s True!
  • The Pizzos are learning each day how important it is to keep swimmin’…That’s Right!

P.S.

Robin Williams was one I loved my whole life.  His ability to make people laugh was a gift and never failed to deliver.  Although I wrote this piece before his untimely, tragic death my prayer for him and all those struggling with depression is to PLEASE find a way to keep swimmin’! 

The world is far better with you than without you.

What helps you to keep Swimming?  And what do you find lovely, pure, true, praiseworthy, just?  

Leave a comment.

Not A Cliche or Another Sad Love Song

 

Ok so the title itself screams cliche, but I did not want to be one today.

I had promised myself that I would begin to blog more about my writing journey in an attempt to hold myself accountable to what I produce.  I am fascinated by all the marvelous roles Blog Baby is playing in my life right now.  Anyway, I  set a deadline to submit three children’s books and a contest entry to Lee & Low’s New Voices Contest by August 1st.  I have reworked, revised and reread until I’m sick of the books, myself and the dream of being published for the past ten years and I knew it was time.  Yes I will repeat!  I have had four, and if I’m truly honest even more picture, poetry and chapter books completed for over ten years and I have never once sent them out for publishing.

I remember how after attending an SCBWI Conference in L.A. ten years ago as a baby weaning strategy, (ask me about it and I’ll make it a new blog topic) how fired up I was and ready to conquer the world with my books.  I had met such greats like Walter Dean Myers, John Green, Hope Anita Smith, and Kadir Nelson all which brought me to tears because they were my Michael Jackson, Beatles, Justin Bieber rock stars.

I loved them and their work had transformed my life’s experience in profound ways.

 

 

I returned home with an arsenal of information and motivation.  Only to decide to write a brand new picture book and send out to test the waters.  Well unfortunately the waters drowned all that Hudspeth as I received my first rejection letter ever.  It was heartbreaking to say the least.  Now looking back I think self-sabotage is truly the diagnoses for my actions.

Needless to say I decided I needed to read more, learn more and simply raise my kids and be happy.  I went about doing just that.

 

 

 

 

 

However after a while the nagging voice in my heart kept reminding me of the purposeful passion I had in creating the books and that I needed to send them out.  It became clear that I was suffering from a failure to launch after perhaps the 8th or 9th year staring at the books and discussing the books but never taking the next logical step for publishing.  I had become my worst enemy.  Clearly a cliché.

Fast forward to July 3, 2014 and I decide to break out the books and give them a 1 millionth once over.  My children were all wondering why I was not pursuing publishing and was simply tired of hearing about the Disney trip that the family would take when I received an acceptance letter.

 

The now 10 year old son who was weaned while I attended the SCBWI Conference made it very clear that we were never going to make it to Disney because the books just sat on a shelf or in a jump.  So I set a date.

August 1, 2014 come hook or crook I would send the books out.  I revamped the queries and allowed others to read them once again for suggestions.  Then the day quickly approached.  My 14 year old asked very politely was I ready to meet the deadline?  I almost said no I wouldn’t make it.  But then I thought and responded simply, “I will be.”

However after a long exhausting week, a sink full of dishes, several loads of laundry, dinner to prepare, along with spending quality time with my teenage daughter playing two sets of tennis,  I knew I would be too tired to complete the final of the final revisions.  Errors that definitely had to be corrected.

But once I took out the trash, cleaned, chopped and bagged the huge cabbage my neighbor gave me, I made a resolve to get it done.

I sat there at 11:46 p.m. on July 31, having just completed all revisions. Ready to push the send button on three books and one contest entry on August 1.  I was not going to be another sad love song spewing my clichés of what should’ve , would’ve, could’ve  happened and why nots.

 

Hopefully it won’t take me another ten years before I query again.

Blog Baby: Flawed and All

My transition into a new career focus in Higher Education Administration has been quite an interesting journey. I did not expect all the emotions I have experienced due to the dreaded, and mysterious element of CHANGE. And as I continue to work diligently to get acclimated to my new digs, new responsibilities, and new career focus, I find myself not juggling my time well enough to post consistently at Pizzos3.com.

But not to worry,(encouraging myself of course) because blogging consistently is a long term goal and therefore I have time to get it right. However, for accountability purposes I am putting it out there that my goal is to blog as least once a month about something, anything. Remember my mantra “Writers write but Great Writers Write Often”. So really posting twice a month is truly idea for me.

As an English teacher, writing is often slow cooked.
Drafts, Revisions, Edits, Revisions, Drafts. All taking time.

As a Blogger, writing is expedited.
Think, create, publish.

I am learning this, and hopefully will get better as I continue to help my blog baby grow and develop. I realize as I read all the how to blogging experts I have and continue to make decisions about my blog that they would find appalling and erroneous.

mother's love

Unknown artist- searching to give credit??

But each chance I get to look at my baby I smile because its my creatively, my craft, and my challenge and I will raise it just the way I please. Flawed and All.

Also whats best and means more than anything is the love I feel towards Pizzos3.com and am delighted for the opportunity to have such a platform to develop as a writer and share with all of you who read and subscribe.

~Many Blessings

Tell me your “new baby” or blogging woes by leaving a comment.

Points of PRIDE!

Yesterday my cousin who is forty and having a late baby asked me when did I have my last baby.  It took a moment for me to respond, because math is not always my friend and subtraction is oftentimes a pure enemy.  Hence all the bounced checks.  However I did figure out that I had my youngest son who is now 8 at 32.  Instantly I had an epiphany!  By the age of 32 I had four children, two degrees, a house, car and a marriage to a man that I am still in love with ’til this day.   I also had been teaching for over 5 years, and still loved it, written three children’s books and was forming a love affair with the children’s book publishing community as a member of SCBWI while continuing to grow ever committed to my faith and Lord and Savior.

The struggle has been real but its clear why it should have been now.  Life is always  better understood in retrospect.

As I continue to reflect on this, I’ve thought  about what a wonderful point of pride for someone who spent her early years in foster care from the age of one to five years old.

What a mighty God I serve to bless me with such an  awesome testimony!

What’s your point of pride or testimony today?  Leave a comment and share your gratitude.

Many Blessings

~Robin

PART II: RACE and Books

I am now embarking on a new phase in my career and coming out of the classroom, even though there are still important opportunities to influence students Pre-k through higher education.  Getting here was a little scary as mentioned in the previous post. In the final phase of the selection process, which seemed to take a long time, the RHOA girl fight aired.  I heard nothing from the HR department and I thought perhaps the conversation I had with my daughter and family friend might be accurate in why my offer seemed to be held up. Anytime you’re waiting on anything important, your mind can often wonder through the most accusatory places.

The conversation went something like this.    

 

 

Daughter:  I have gone on over 30  interviews and some I was even called back several times, but in   the end I didn’t get the job.  Even when my qualifications were a perfect match.

Friend: Yeah, same here.  I have even interviewed with people who were less qualified than I and went several rounds and didn’t get the final call back.  Even with a degree.

Me:  Well, what do you attribute this to?  Do you think it’s just super competitive right now in the job market?

Daughter:  I would think that until I was asked in one interview whether I was a party girl or not?  And also if I liked to go clubbing out late, because I would have to work early on most days?

Friend:  For me it’s even worse, I’ve had to dummy down my qualifications and long term job experience on my resumes and applications because I’ve been questioned about really doing the things I say I’ve done. Like they need photographic proof or something.

Friend:  Once I was told in the interview that they didn’t want any drama in their offices.  And questioned whether I liked to fight or not.

Me:  Wow really.  Where is this coming from?

Friend:  I think it’s the images that are constantly being pushed about black people.  Popping bottles, throwing drinks, making it rain and fighting like crazy.

Me:  Do you think these images are created purposefully by media?  Sort of a propaganda push.

Daughter:  Yes, the images of great African American women in particular like Michelle Obama are just not strong enough to combat what is constantly out there seen as the screaming, yelling, angry black women.  I think it’s really strange that in today’s time I can go into all types of businesses here where we live and not see one person of color working there.  Not Asian, Hispanic, Black, East Indian, nothing.

Friend’s Mother:  Seems to me it’s an attempt to ‘whiteout’ employment for fear of the images are true.

Hence my fright when I didn’t hear back from the HR department in what I considered a timely manner.  I questioned whether the images out in media land were negatively affecting my chances at a higher position.  I was unsure.  I have been on my soap box concerning these images for some time now {remember Girl Fight Club} but it definitely is necessary to continue the discussion if any real change is to come.

How does this relate back to books and race?  Books can project images of all kinds.  Christopher Myers wrote, “…from the understanding that your life and lives of people like you are worthy of being told, thought about, discussed, and even celebrated.  Academics and educators talk about self-esteem and self-worth when they think of books in this way, as mirrors that affirm readers’ own identities.” Walter Dean Myers eloquently wrote, “Books transmit values.  They explore our common humanity.  What is the message when some children are not represented in those books? Where are the future white personnel managers going to get their ideas of people of color?  Where are the future white loan officers and future white politicians going to get their knowledge of people of color?  Where are black children going to get a sense of who they are and what they can be?”

Hopefully not from the media. And definitely not from RHOA.

When I taught those fifth graders that read over 1500 books, there was a moment when I had to convince them that college was for all of them.  They didn’t believe it.  There weren’t any academic role models before them to show them the way.  I wrote my first children’s book trying to convince them that college was for them and named it College Bound.  I used the young man who won the challenge as the model for the main character.  I really never did anything with the book until recently when I decided to revise it and begin sending queries on it.  I have several children’s book in a completed phase sitting on a shelf. The realities presented within the articles are forcing me to send them out with a hope of being one in the number of those books of color that get published.

As for the book, College Bound, I dedicated it to the young man who won the challenge, and  read it first, and now sits in a jail cell awaiting a possible 20 year sentence.  Maybe more books representing all cultures throughout his life could have changed this.

~Many Blessings,

Robin