Thursday, June 30, 2016

Summer Time--by Ellen Jensen Abbott


“At loose ends?” my husband asked me this morning as I wandered around the kitchen, sitting at the computer for three minutes, putting a few dishes away, listening down the basement stairs to see if the dryer was still running, and then heading back to the computer to check the email I had checked a mere three minutes earlier.
Yes. It’s the fourth day of summer for me and I’m already at loose ends. If I was twelve I would come dragging into my mother’s room to say, “I’m bored.” In fact, there is a lot about the start of my summer that is akin to that twelve-year-old’s. I’m a teacher and for the past nine months, my life has been full of lesson planning, arranging and moderating discussions, doing dorm-duty and grading, grading, grading. Like that twelve-year-old, I had the euphoric moment when I was done for the summer and I had that first day of lazing around and feeling fine about it (I watched Pride and Prejudice for the eleventh time). But now I’m four days in, and I don’t know what to do with myself. Oh, there are plenty of projects crying out to me: finish that novel! Write that blog! Paint that wall! But it feels impossible to prioritize with these wide open days in front of me.
That’s the promise of summer to me: time. From the craziness of the school year, it seems like the ultimate luxury. But there’s a discipline that comes with these wide open days that, at the moment, is eluding me. This is a new feeling. My kids are in their late-teens and twenties. During previous summers, I had their swim meets, playdates, and day-camps to organize my days around. But now, they drive, they have jobs, they report in but don’t rely on me. I’m left to my own devices.  

In a few more days--unfocused, loose-ends kinds of days--I will impose some structure on the time. I’ll get up early and run; write for a few hours; take care of house stuff; read. I’ll work hard enough that I will give myself days off for a trip to the beach or to the mountains. When late August gets here, I’ll get mopey again. What’s going to happen to all my lovely time? I’ll moan to my husband who works in a twelve-month job and is a good enough man that he actually feels sympathy for me. But right now, I haven’t changed gears yet. That’s coming. And I’ve already been able to check on thing off my list: write that blog post!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Summer Jobs (Brian Katcher)


First of all, I want to remind everyone that as a teacher, I get summers off, and as an author, I don't have to teach summer school. Just wanted to let you know that. Neener, neener.

But there was a time when summer meant work. Before I started teaching the citizens of tomorrow, I paid into Social Security.

1992: McDonalds Fry Cook

Advantages: They really didn't expect a lot of me. Cheap meals. Free ketchup.

Disadvantages: Seeing how the food was prepared inspired me to bring food from home. Grease burns. The uniform pants had no pockets.

Memory: Eating at Taco Bell in my uniform

1993-1995: Mall Survey Taker (those obnoxious clipboard people)

Advantages: Great job for lazy people like me, I could find a quiet corner and daydream, forging the surveys later.

Disadvantages: We were the lepers of the mall, avoided by all. The creeping sensation that I contributed nothing to society. The hideous knowledge that there are people out there--adult, well-paid people--who stress about television commercials.

Memory: When we did food surveys and got to gorge on the free salsa and cookies.

1995-1996: Temp Factory Worker

Advantages: Somewhat of a macho job. Got to run big machinery. No dress code.

Disadvantage: As a temp, I got bad hours and lower pay. Molten plastic burns like napalm.

Memory: Sneaking home plastic car parts to my college apartment. 

1996-1997: Substitute Teacher

Advantages: None. None whatsoever.

Disadvantages: What goes around, comes around, Brian. Poor job market in the summer.

Memory: An actual tornado hit the city while I was teaching.

1997: Furniture Mover (Sears)

Advantages: Slow paced.

Disadvantages: I realized just how clumsy I am. This was also the only job where I had to pee in a cup.

Memory: A customer asked me to test out a bed to see if I thought it was comfortable. Then my boss walked in and thought I was napping.

And there you have it. Well, it's 11:00 AM on a Tuesday, let's see what Ellen is wearing today! Did I mention I don't have to work?

Monday, June 27, 2016

Great things about summer: a random list (Jennifer R. Hubbard)

(You can tell from this list that I had a middle-class suburban childhood, but that we didn’t have central A/C.)

Open windows and fans

Breezes

Trips to the beach

Going barefoot

Ice cream

Lemonade and iced tea

Fourth-of-July fireworks

Cookouts, with corn on the cob and homemade potato salad

Stacks of “summer reading” library books

Reading outdoors

Playing outside after dinner

The coolness of the basement

Sleeping late

Thunderstorms, when you’re safe and cozy indoors

Stepping into an air-conditioned store or movie theater on a blistering day

The sound of crickets and cicadas

Free time

Saturday, June 25, 2016

The promise of an endless summer -- Jen Doktorski

I live for summer.

Longer days, firefly nights. The smell of honeysuckle, freshly cut grass, suntan lotion, the ocean…the sound of cricket songs, the ice cream man, fireworks, baseball on TV, children splashing in a pool.

My year is pretty much divided into two seasons—summer and waiting for summer. Lucky for me, for the past five years or so, I’ve been living in a sort of endless summer. All three of my books are set in the summertime. Two have the word “summer” in the title and my fourth book, which I’m hoping to be able to talk more about soon, is also set in summer. It's a companion to The Summer After You & Me and set once again at my favorite summer place – the Jersey shore.
This month we’re blogging about the promise of summer. Here are just a few things I hope summer promises for me.

Sunrises over the ocean.
Bike rides on the boardwalk.


Lunch at Surf Taco.

Sea glass in the surf.

Kite nights.

Sunsets on the bay.

 
What are some of the promises summer holds for you?

Thursday, June 23, 2016

In-Season Fruit, Hoodies in July, the Cubs and the Endless Promise of Summer (Joy Preble)

Growing up in Chicago, summer was the often elusive promise of warmer weather. Winter lasts a looooong time in the Windy City, with snow sometimes lingering in shady corners of the Forest Preserves until well in May. More than once there’s a legit blizzard in April, making even Spring feel like a product of your hopeful imagination.

But eventually summer would come when I was a kid and it would be glorious. We didn’t end school until late June, starting up again after Labor Day, but still it felt like an endless holiday—even if some years we had to bundle up in hoodies to watch the Fourth of July fireworks.  Summer was camp and free time and swimming and biking for hours. It meant Cubs’ home games because we lived in walking distance from Wrigley Field. Of course, like that April blizzard even after it had already warmed up in March, being a Cubs fan holds its own elusive set of promises. But as we say, there's always next year.

Summer meant – and still means—cherries and plums and apricots and watermelon and blueberries. We’d eat Michigan black cherries by the handful. Even now as an adult in a world where my local grocery store has access to a wide variety of fruits all year long, I prefer in-season fruit. I know I can eat cherries from South America in the winter, but there is something really glorious about waiting. I live in Texas now and Texas blueberries are in great abundance as I type this, far juicier than the ones that flew here from another continent back in February.

Barbara Kingsolver writes quite articulately and passionately about her family’s experiment with eating local in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, quite an interesting non-fiction book.

Now, here in Texas, summer is a different beast in some regards. It is warm to hot much of the year and honestly, in Houston, we wait anxiously for October the same way I used to wait for June. When I was teaching, summer brought freedom from the bag of papers to be graded and lessons to be planned, the bag that never quite emptied until that last day. It meant a quieter rhythm and small trips here and there and afternoons at the pool with my son and his friends. It still means many of those things, but since I work from home now, writing full time and teaching more freelance, the lines are a bit blurred.

Honestly? I miss it.

I won’t lie; Autumn is my favorite season.
But summer promises that, too.

What’s your favorite thing about summer?

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Summer Through the Windows by Patty Blount

Summer is trying its best to get here.

As I write this, in the middle of June on Long Island, we're experiencing some gorgeous May-like weather with cool temperatures and breezes that mean no patio umbrellas for a while yet. It's not quite summer yet.

And yet, June's half over.

My family has been vocal about how cheated they feel. "Hey!" They shout to Mother Nature, tapping the calendar. "Winter's over. Give us some beach days." They can't wait for ninety-degree heat and humidity.

But me? I am quietly loving this cooler-than-usual summer weather.

Last year at this time, I was diagnosed with an auto-immune disease called psoriatic arthritis. I've had psoriasis for about three years -- small scaly patches that dot my elbows and legs. But last year, it worsened to include a most painful form of arthritis. It began in one arm, in the elbow. Here I am, in Brooklyn, accepting last year's Firecracker Award from CLMP. You can see my arm frozen in an awkward position.

















After the arm healed, I had a flare-up in several fingers, the worst of which was my ring finger. My wedding ring finger. The swelling was significant, so I was given an IV of prednisone. The pain was so unbearable, I begged my husband to take off my finger with garden shears.

This is a picture of the hand AFTER three weeks of medication. My manuscript was delivered two months late because of that.  (By the way, Dragon Dictation software is fun!)




I found a rheumatologist and besides prednisone, began taking four other medications. I now carry a special wallet with all my various potions zipped into separate compartments, except for one that's injected twice a month. I've become a human science project. It beats experiencing that level of pain again. No flare-ups in a year and aside from a truly depressing weight gain, I'm okay.

The downside is no pool days, no beach days, no sun. I have to sit in the shade, well-covered, to protect my body from further damage that could be caused by mixing sun and all these medications. I'm so excited about summer FINALLY getting here, but have to enjoy it from behind glass, like the science project I often feel like.

So I'd be truly happy if summer never got any hotter than this.

It reminds me of all the creative ways I looked for ways to cool down when I was a kid. I grew up in a NYC apartment -- no air-conditioning. Playgrounds had to be avoided at any cost --no trees to sit under. I used to grab my favorite mystery novel and sit at this bus stop. The breeze created by traffic was somewhat soothing and best of all, it was shady because of the trees.












Two years ago at this time, I was writing A MATCH MADE AT CHRISTMAS, my first contemporary romance (Tule Publishing Group, 2014). Mine was book 4 in a Christmas in New York series so I gathered with three other author friends in one's beautiful backyard and we wrote our series bible under the shade of her beautiful giant umbrella. (There's nothing quite like singing Christmas carols in ninety degree weather!)

So, last year, we bought a similar umbrella so I can have some shade when I venture outdoors. Despite my new limitations, I'm still happy summer is finally here, and look forward to grabbing a great book to read -- or dreaming up a new one to write -- under my new umbrella.

What creative ways do you have for avoiding sunburn while enjoying summer? 





Tuesday, June 21, 2016

THE PROMISE OF PRINT (HOLLY SCHINDLER)

This summer, I'm bringing my indie work into the world of print. I'm delighted to announce that my first print book, MILES LEFT YET, is now available!



I was surprised to find that putting a book together--I mean designing it in a visual way--is actually an artistic process. That's completely different than formatting an e-book; with an e-book, you can't account for what device your work will be read on, and have to keep it all as simple as possible. No graphics, no fancy fonts, nada. With print, though, you get to play with all of that.

As a reader, we don't actually think about little things like font choice and margins, the spacing of each line. But all those things come together to create tone--to provide a full reading experience. Having only gone through the process once, I'd already say that I now think of an adult print book as a piece of visual art--every bit as much as a young reader's illustrated book.

That's truly been the coolest part of putting together indie work, being responsible for every last detail: it makes me think of the content in a new way. I'm now imagining of the end product from the get-go, even when I'm still in the earliest drafting phase...

Sunday, June 19, 2016

One Foot in Summer (Laurie Boyle Crompton)

This year, winter in New York was fairly mild, but boy, was it ever LONG.

At one point I declared to a friend, "My feet look like it was never summer." 
Her (proper) response was, "Ew." 

But now it has finally come. SUMMERTIME! And while I still haven't had my annual 'sandal season' pedicure, I did slap a bit of robin's egg blue polish on my toes, because, come on, I'm not an animal.

It's more difficult to hide our neglected bits when the sun is shining and the shoes come off. I've always said that the way to get a 'bikini body' is to take your body in whatever shape or form it's in and put a bikini on it. Ta-da! Bikini body! Get over yourself and your cellulite and go enjoy the beach. But summer is a season to pay closer attention to those areas we can no longer hide under blankets and darkness. It requires amping up the self-care with moisturizing and what-not. (And by 'what-not' I am referring to the time-honored tradition that can bring a grown woman to tears: waxing.) 

How fitting that I am in the process of revising my next novel GRAFFITI LOVE right now. Shining that sunshine into the manuscript's dark places, overgrown with overwriting and in desperate need of attention and grooming. My book is being smoothed and pampered. And in some places the spare hairs are being painfully pulled from the roots.

It is process that will make my final novel shine brighter and I'm excited for readers to meet these characters and experience their story. My reward once these revisions are done? Obviously, a pedicure/waxing celebration of SUMMERTIME! 

I shall spare you a photo of my still-winterized tootsies and instead show off my recently revamped website instead. Check it out @ www.lboylecrompton.com - see you at the beach!



Saturday, June 18, 2016

Nerdy Summer (Alissa Grosso)

I know I probably shouldn't say this as someone who writes books for "young people" because I'm supposed to set a good example or something, but I never really liked school. This is the truth, though, and I think it's important to say it because I know for a fact that there are young people out there who share this view. To you I loudly say: YOU ARE NOT ALONE!



The thing is I should have been the exact sort of person that liked school. By this I mean I'm a curious person who loves to learn new things. When I see something that puzzles me or that I don't understand, I research it until I find an answer. Whole books have been read because I happened to see something that puzzled me one day. And, on the subject of books, I've loved them for just about my whole life, and as a kid read every one I could get my hands on. Sounds like the sort of kid who would have loved school, right? But I loathed it.

I could probably write a whole book about how I really didn't like school and everything that I think is wrong with our public education system - who am I kidding, I could write volumes! In brief, I hate the maddening boredom of routines, I'm not a fan of being bossed around and I always felt like school did everything in its power to take all the joy and fun out of learning new things.

So, like many children, I looked forward to summer, because it meant about two and a half months of NO SCHOOL! It was a glorious and magical thing.



So, you might think I filled my days with idle pursuits, living it up like there was no tomorrow and lazing about in the sun. Sure, there was some playing of various sorts, there was the ability to not be a slave to the alarm clock, but I got a lot kicks from an assortment of nerdy pastimes.

First of all, there was the reading. Summer meant I could read all day if I wanted to, and sometimes I did. I quickly exhausted the meager selection of books in my town's library, which simply meant I read my favorites again or ventured into the adult section in search of something worthwhile.

Running out of books wasn't always a bad thing, though, because one of my other summer hobbies was writing books. I always had big ambitions for my summer writing projects and as the end of the school year rolled around, I spent a lot of my time in class daydreaming about the novel I would write that summer. Unfortunately, it would take me years to develop the discipline to finish an entire novel. (And the argument could be made that I still lack discipline. Like in the writing of this relatively short blog post I took breaks to have a Twitter conversation with YA Outside the Line's Jennifer R. Hubbard about the annoyingness that is backyard fireworks, browsed Google images for modern style houses and sent a list of summer themed songs to my father on Facebook who was coming up with ideas for a musical podcast he's working on.)



Yet, all that nerdiness pales in comparison to some of the other assignments I used to make up for myself. One of the things that I used to do during my summer break was read the dictionary for fun. I'll just let that sink in for a moment. That's not all. I would actually thumb through the dictionary and find random words that I wasn't familiar with. Each week, I'd come up with a list of 10 of them, copy them down along with their meaning, use them in a sentence and then attempt to use them all in a single paragraph, then throughout the week I would quiz myself on them because I was that much of a dork.

But to this day, I remember what a lorgnette is because of my homegrown vocabulary quizzes.



It's also worth noting that so far I've never needed to draw upon this eyewear knowledge, but surely some day it will, like a lorgnette itself, come in handy.

The summers of my youth were nerdy and all kinds of awesome. There were here and there some nightmares, namely the time my mother signed me up for the town rec program - it was like school in the summer, school without the books, so, basically, hell; the time my mother made me go to Vacation Bible School, sacrilegious as it is to say this, Vacation Bible School was definitely hell and the time my mother made us take swimming lessons which also was like school without books, but the classes were held really early in the morning in icy cold water. By and large, though, summer was endless freedom and lots of books.

I don't anticipate summer quite as much as I did as a kid, but this story has a happy ending. I don't need to look forward to summer because I basically enjoy year round freedom and nerdiness. So, for any of you young people that have stuck around this long, know that there is hope. Someday, you will be done with school, and someday, if you play your cards right, you too will be able to live the nerdy life of your dreams.

Alissa Grosso is the author of one book about summer, Ferocity Summer as well as two books about other things: Popular and Shallow Pond. You can find out more about her at alissagrosso.com.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

The Promise of Summer...Vegetables (by Jody Casella)

Recipe for Writing a Book Growing a Garden

First, you will have to do lots of planning. Research. Make an outline.


Plot out your space. Where do you want to plant that row of beans, for example? Should the tomatoes grow along the fence? Will the kale flop over the cabbage?

Or, whatever. 

Forget the planning. Jab a bunch of holes in the ground. Sprinkle seeds. See what comes up.

Look! A squash plant. How did the heck did that end up in this corner?


Ah well. We can make it work. Push the cabbage plants out of the way. Tie up the beans.


Don't forget to weed. That stuff just clutters up your garden, choking off all of the good stuff.

And, yes, I know it's stressful, but you're going to have to kill your darlings thin your carrots. Trust me. The ones you leave behind will be much happier.

Gardening is hard work, but when it comes down to it, most of the job involves puttering around in the dirt.

It doesn't have to be perfect.

When you come to the end of the season, take a moment to celebrate what you've created.


Eat your vegetables.


Give the rest away.

Don't worry. Next year you can plant again.






Sunday, June 12, 2016

Writing the Melancholy Summer (Cat Scully)

Most of my books are set during the fall, not because I dislike spring or summer, but because I feel more alive in the fall than at any other time of year. Maybe it's because I like things that are a bit melancholy, or maybe it's because of the cool relief from the Georgia humidity and the death of all those mosquitoes and poison ivy, but summer is always the most bittersweet time of year. I liked school, so most of the books I write take place during the school year with friends and tests to worry about. For the first time, I'm writing a premise set specifically during the summer and about that feeling I used to have of being cut off from my friends, a kind of horror in itself. The long days felt longer without schoolwork and friends. I liked keeping busy. Summer was always this long dream I wanted to wake up from, even with my love of hot dogs and fireworks and lazy afternoons swimming until the blue waters turned purple after twilight.

Writing in the summer became a daunting task to me. I knew fall. I knew Halloween, the taste of honeycrisp apples and pumpkin muffins. I knew how to write back to school. I knew how to talk about that feeling of fresh beginnings and that long anticipated moment you walk to school in your new outfit with a carefully chosen binder and fresh pens. But I didn't know Summer. To me, growing up, it was the end of the annual cycle. School ended and the long three months of being apart from others my own age began. I used to sit in the trees of my front yard and write about the inner lives of the people I saw as they passed, carefully hidden in my perch. It was the lonely extrovert that felt this way and still does every time summer rolls around again. As I work on this book, it comes more readily every day. I've found it's easier to write the season you're in. Inspiration is around everywhere, though I look at it with a sense that a season is ending once again. But most people may not picture their summer as sad but rather as relief and freedom. Even in college, all I wanted to do was return to school for the work and my friends and the love of community.

Writing now is also my most difficult time of year to write because all I want to do is go outside. This year, it has been particularly difficult. I think when I finish this book, Summer will become a season of beginnings as I'm hard at work at starting a new career at the same time as trying a new venture in my written work that I've never dared try before. I hope your Summer is as fruitful.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Summer. Sigh. (Sydney Salter)

Nothing matches that last day of school feeling. No responsibilities. Hot weather. So many possibilities.

Losing that feeling is one of the disadvantages of being grown up.

All of my published novels are set during the summer. My Big Nose And Other Natural Disasters is a love letter to summers in Reno, Nevada. Bonfires in the hills. Lake Tahoe. First job. Disastrous first job. Swoon At Your Own Risk allowed me to vicariously have the ultimate summer job at a water park. Romance always seemed possible during the summer, too. Although real life never quite worked out that way, my characters all meet the kind of quirky nice guys teen me dreamed about.

My middle grade characters learn about themselves during the summer. Jungle Crossing is about a family vacation. I still treasure the bonding that happens among family members during unique shared experiences. Sometimes summers aren't so great--like if your parents divorce and you suddenly lose family traditions. That's my character's struggle in Not A Doctor Logan's Divorce Book. Summer diving lessons help her find herself again.

So many of my own transformative moments have happened during the summer, so I guess that's why similar circumstances find their way into my novels. I still feel a sense of possibility whenever I stop for a few moments to soak up delicious summer heat.


Saturday, June 4, 2016

The Lost Summer (Bill Cameron)

First grade. Last day of school. I got home, and my mom said, “Summer at last! Why don’t you go outside and play!” Yes, why don’t I?! So I ran to my favorite climbing tree and wriggled right up the trunk. I was feeling it hard: the warm air, the freedom. I stepped out onto a branch and loosed a mighty Tarzan yell, beating my chest at the sense of possiblity ahead of me.

And promptly toppled to the ground. Oops.

I suppose it hurt, but all I remember is standing up and looking at my arm. It was shaped roughly like this (my fingers aren’t that jaggedy in real life):



Later, at the hospital, I learned a new word. Shattered. (Yay, vocabulary!) I spent the next two months in a cast from fingertips to armpit.

So much for that summer. But my arm healed up just fine!

Not all my childhood summers were quite so inauspicious. Still, one June I hacked open my hand with a paring knife while trying to sharpen a branch to make a spear. Another year I managed to catch the middle finger of my right hand in a fire door as it shut. The end of that finger is still kinda funny looking. There was another broken arm in middle school — I fell off our garage roof. But these were pretty typical mishaps of childhood, the kind of thing most of us experience along the way in one form another.

Then there was the summer of 1979. The fever showed up on the 4th of July. Instead of going out to the fireworks I watched the Boston Pops on TV. At first, the fever responded aspirin. But two days later it hit 104.7° and I landed in an ice bath in the emergency room.

I would go on to spend six weeks in the pediatric wing of Good Samaritan Hospital in Dayton, Ohio. My fever cycled twice a day from low grade to volcano, but I had no other symptoms. I scored a private room was because I was quarantined, which meant people had to dress in space suits to visit me — at least until they ruled out any number of infectious diseases.

That’s mostly what they did that summer. Rule things out. I experienced my first spinal tap, and had bone marrow sucked from my sternum. Those two delightful experiences ruled out encephalitis and leukemia though, so there’s that. Over time, a whole bunch of other things were ruled out too. That’s good, obviously, but what wasn’t good all the time I was alone, wondering when a test would finally turn out to be positive, and what it would be positive for. Beriberi? Trypanosomiasis? Skittles pox? (Mmmm, delicious Skittles pox.)

After the first week, my visitors dropped to almost zero — despite the fact my doctors cleared the quarantine so there was no more need of spacesuits. My second week in, I contracted pneumonia, which made my Fever Dream rollercoaster even more thrilling for a while, but they were able to knock that down with antibiotics.

I spent most of my non-fevered periods by myself. I had plenty of books, which helped, and four channels of pre-cable TV. But not much else. The nurses were great, but they were busy and had no time to entertain a restless 15-year-old who passed into delerium twice a day. My doctors (I would eventually have five) stopped by each day, but they mostly just looked serious and told me they were doing everything they could. I think I was mostly an interesting puzzle to them.

As time passed, the fevers became less severe, and eventually they just … stopped. My doctors had run out of tests, and with no more symptoms, they sent me home. I spent the last a week or so before back-to-school wondering what I would have done if I’d had a summer.

I also spent a lot of time thinking about who my friends were, who I could count on. In retrospect, I think that summer may have been harder on my emotional health than my body. I think I lost a little faith in others that summer, and  a little faith in myself. Sometimes I look back on some choices I’ve made that were hurtful toward others and wonder the seeds of those choices were planted in 1979. All that time I spent alone during the long, lost summer, wondering if my friends and even some of my family had forgotten me — hell, sometimes wondering if I was going to die — what did it burn into me, or out of me?

Still, I remember one thing. For most of my hospital stay, I was getting blood drawn a couple of times a day. There was one hematology tech who would time his arrival at my room to coincide with his break, and then he’d hang out and watch TV with me or chat. It was just half an hour, but it was huge. I missed him on his days off.

Back then, I didn’t understand what a gift he was giving me — the gift of time. But if I saw him today, I’d hug him. So if I learned a little cynicism that summer, it wasn’t all I learned.



By way of epilogue, we got a phone call from one of my many doctors the next November. They’d done a number of cultures that took months to return a result, and finally they had an answer for me — or sort of an answer.

One of the cultures had been positive for histoplasmosis, a fungus which most typically infects the lungs. It’s common in the Ohio River Valley, and may have contributed to my development of pneumonia.

For people with healthy immune systems, a histoplasmosis infection can resolve on its own. That may be what happened with me, since I was never treated for it. Or the histoplasmosis may not have been the problem at all. The cycling fever isn’t among its usual symptoms. I’ll probably never know for sure.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Nine Killed You, Nine Will Die (Brian Katcher)

 

I couldn't think of a title, so I used the tagline from a great horror movie.

Okay, dreams vs. reality.
THE DREAM:

A successful book will allow me to save up a bit of money, maybe take a nice trip with my family.

THE REALITY:
 

THE DREAM:

If I'm lucky, I may hear from an occasional reader who enjoyed my work.

THE REALITY:

 

THE DREAM:

Being a writer will allow me to meet all sorts of interesting people and travel to exciting places.

THE REALITY:

 

THE DREAM:

It will somewhat satisfying to mention my success to those who doubted me.

THE REALITY:

 

THE DREAM:

Writing is hard work, but it pays off in the end.

THE REALITY:

 

The important thing is, summer school starts this week and if I didn't write on the side, I'd be teaching for the whole month of June. Neener neener.
 

Friday, May 27, 2016

Dreams and reality at graduation time (Jennifer R. Hubbard)

It’s graduation season, and millions of new graduates are facing the world with pocketsful of brand-new plans and dreams. At least, I hope they are. I hope we have not beaten them down too much with gloomy forecasts of unemployment, ecological crises, and what we might lose in an increasingly automated society—as real as those problems may be. I hope we have not boiled down their aspirations to getting a steady paycheck, as important and difficult as that is.

I don’t know if young adults face the world anymore with the expectation that they will change it; they will correct the wrongs of previous generations. That they will be the ones who get it, the ones who solve humanity’s problems, the ones who figure out how to make human beings stop killing one another. I don’t know if graduation speakers still pass the torch by saying, “You are the future! Go out and make it happen!” I don’t know if graduates still plan to seize the day, to make the world theirs.

But I hope they do.

We need them.

We need young people who question the way things have always been done. We need inspiration, fresh ideas, big dreams.

A lot of big dreams don’t come true. I’m not saying we should sugarcoat that truth. But so much can be done just in the trying.

Dreams shape our lives whether or not we ever reach them, or reach them in exactly the way we thought. Dreams get us through the hard times. They give us purpose. They keep us from settling for less than our best. They give us the possibility that tomorrow will be even better than today.

The real tragedy would be not to even try.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

That Side of the Desk (Courtney McKinney-Whitaker)



I spend a lot of time berating myself for being a failure.

By "failure" I mean a person who got an undergraduate degree in History and French. (What? Who does that, right? Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be liberal arts majors unless they have a very clear life plan. Or business majors. Or theoretical math majors. There are many "useless degrees," it turns out. Just—have a plan, is probably the best idea.)

Then got a Master of Library and Information Science. I was supposed to be a librarian.

Then I worked for about a year and a half as a children's librarian but just couldn't quite find what I needed in the storytime round. Maybe if I'd stayed in longer, there would have been more opportunities to find my niche.

But I went back to school instead and got an M.A. in English at a school that specializes in children's and young adult lit. I was supposed to be a professor.

Then I became one of the legions of adjunct faculty exploited by a broken and corrupt higher education system. (While you're complaining about the high salaries of football coaches, take a look at the inflated salaries and inflated sheer numbers of redundant administrators. That's where your college debt is coming from. Utter mismanagement. It surely is not going to pay your professors, adjunct or tenured.)

I tried and tried to do what I thought I should have done while I was drifting through undergrad, taking classes that (gasp!) interested me and filling my brain with history, French, and even sometimes, French history. I tried to get certified as a high school teacher. I even took a bunch of classes, but it never quite worked out. I was supposed to be a teacher.

Those are all the ways I tried, as an adult, to forget my writing dream. My dream wasn't sensible, it wasn't comfortable, it wasn't a sure thing, and there wasn't a clear Point A to B to C path to get there.
So for about the past ten years, I've been fighting back the nasty little voices in my head that say I'm a failure, that I didn't live up to my potential, that I should be a teacher or a lawyer or some high-powered historian who gets misquoted or told to say ridiculous things on documentaries. 

You know who wouldn't think I'm a failure, though? 

Ten-year-old me, who would be in awe of the silver IPPY medal and the Kirkus star and so jealous of all the places I get to travel. (I don't want to brag, but I've stood on Lexington Green. I saw the tavern where Rab Silsbee...well, spoilers. I fangirled out a little.)

Fifteen-year-old me, who was afraid I would become a "hack." My tenth-grade English teacher used to spit that word like it was the worst thing ever. At the time I was very concerned that the publishing industry would pay me lots of money to write crap. (Ha...ha...hahaha. That has not happened. Yet. Mid-thirties me holds out hope.)

Eighteen-year-old me, who didn't think she'd ever have a book published, much less have national reviewers look at it, much less have those reviewers say it was good.

Twenty-two-year-old me, who pretty much gave up on the writing thing.

The thing I have to remember when I feel like a failure, is this: I did it. I became a writer. I am a writer. 

A few months ago, I was a guest at a library conference, along with any other writers they could get for the low, low price of the chance to sell a few books. I was sitting at my table in the exhibit hall, being generally ignored like everyone but the Newbery winner, whose line was about a hundred people deep, when another writer I'd met at a writing conference said hi and congratulated me on my (in my mind, very dubious) success. 

I was halfway through my, "Oh, it's really not a big deal..." spiel, when she stopped me.

"You're on that side of the desk."

And that, I guess, is what I have to remember, when I think I'm a failure for not following a more sensible, if false, dream.

I'm on this side of the desk. Sure, I dreamed of long lines and movie deals and a spotlight that stayed off me but shone very brightly on my books. 

But I didn't really believe I would ever even get this far.

Ten-year-old me would be proud, and ten-year-old me was a smart kid.