Archive for the ‘Bloggity’ Category

Throwback Thursday

October 22, 2015 @ 8:42 pm | Filed under: Assorted and Sundry, Bloggity

299604445_e2398730e1_z

Today I cleaned my desk. I organized my shelves. I cleaned under my bed. Can you tell I have a revision to finish?

I was reminiscing on Facebook about when we drove cross-country to move here in 2006. Monday was the 9th anniversary of our arrival, which shocks me. We’ve lived here longer than anywhere else in our marriage. I never saw that coming—that my kids would grow up in Southern California.

The FB conversation brought up my old post about our scary encounter with junkyard dogs on that trip—one of the posts that makes me really happy I started blogging. 🙂 I shared the link and was mildly irked to see it come up with one of my sidebar buttons as the giant header image Facebook likes to add now. There were no photos in the original post. Images were optional in 2006. I wound up going back in and adding a picture from the trip. Oh, my younguns were so very YOUNG back then!

I miss blogging like that. So much of that kind of “here’s what happened today” anecdotal posting has shifted to Facebook—it unrolls so naturally on that platform. Blogging seemed to take on a more…hmm, formal, is that the word I’m looking for? Polished?…a more polished tone. I dash off quips and stories on FB, and there’s that happy dopamine burst of reaction. But always, always, I want to pull it all back here to our family archive. We have over ten and a half years of history here. “We,” my family—and we, you and me. Some of you have been with me since the very beginning in 2005. “I remember when you moved,” wrote one FB friend today. “I was reading your blog like a novel, and it was a great upheaval in the plot!”

No great upheavals in the story today. 🙂 Huck lost his other top front tooth. The Tooth Fairy brought him a buck per tooth, which vast fortune he had lost track of by lunchtime. I walked down the hall in time to hear him mutter, “I want my two dollars!” None of the kids knew why this reduced me to giggles.

Yesterday, hustling out the door to piano lessons, I heard Rilla say as I got into the car, “Mom gets a pass. She’s never the rotten egg.” A generous statement, considering I’m always the one hollering, “Is everyone ready?? We’re out the door in two minutes!”—while I’m still half dressed.

Wonderboy (who REALLY needs a more grown-up blog name, but would you allow it?) is giving a speech at school tomorrow about his family. He described me as a “homeschool teacher and an author” and Scott as “an author, a really good cook, and a good shopper.” True on all counts.

He loves his school, but we missed him (and Jane!!) at the park on Monday. Nine years. I still can’t believe it.

12022345_10153165975091596_3733134577734370420_o

About my previous post…

August 9, 2015 @ 5:25 pm | Filed under: Bloggity

The formatting looks good on my screen in Chrome and Firefox, but for some reason it’s a hot mess in Feedly. If you’re reading this via a feed reader, I would recommend clicking through to see the post on my site. Should be nice, neat rows of books, not clumps and stacks!

Comments are off

Every Face

June 2, 2015 @ 4:03 pm | Filed under: Art, Author stuff, Bloggity, Books

branches in blue

I’m midway through a long rhapsody about pens but I’ve scrapped it for today because of this excellent post by Danny Gregory. Danny, as you probably know, is an artist and writer whose books include Art Before Breakfast (a treasure) and the empowering, inspiring The Creative License. He is also a cofounder of Sketchbook Skool and teaches week-long lessons in most of the SBS courses. (He also interviewed me about keeping kids creative for SBS’s “Q and Art” video series.)

In today’s post, Danny writes candidly about a struggle that is not unfamiliar to many of us who make art for a living.

Inevitably, Sketchbook Skool was morphing from a pure passion project into a demanding business. We had to bring on a raft of advisors to cope with the ever-shifting matrix of requirements for operating a global online business. It became clear that if we didn’t want to raise prices, we had to increase sales — so we added a bunch of marketing consultants. In order to grow, we had to address the emerging limitations of our existing platform which just couldn’t handle so many students so next we brought in a team of developers.   I was working for a company again. How the hell did that happen?

It’s funny—just last night I said to Scott: The thing about drawing is, I will never be good enough at it to do it for money. It will never be my job. That’s what’s so great about it. I think I would go mad without a creative outlet that is utterly unrelated to income—all the strings and catches that income involves.

I love writing so much, and I can’t not write, but it’s my job. And I’m lucky to have it, I wouldn’t change it, but there is no denying it altogether alters the experience of writing. I love making books, I love telling stories. Oh, how I love having written. But writing is what pays my bills. Writing for a living brings many layers to the experience of making up stories and writing them down. Deadlines, of course, but also—the whole business/marketing side of the job.

Nowadays more than ever. You have to promote your work, you have to get the word out. Everyone hates doing it. Every writer I know hates that part of the job. It’s embarrassing. It feels needy. But if you don’t do it, you might have to watch books you spent years laboring over quietly disappear.

I’ve made my peace with the business side of the business by drawing some firm boundaries. I accept and expect that certain administrative and promotional duties go along with publishing books—thus it is, and thus has it ever been. I allowed my career to slow down in order to write only books I’m burning to write, which has meant turning down projects and opportunities now and then. I accept very few speaking engagements that involve travel, because it’s important to me to spend most of my time at home with my family. That, too, is a decision that doesn’t always work to my books’ advantage. I’m okay with that. You have to find your balance.

Of course that means taking on other work in order to pay the bills—I do a lot of freelance work behind the scenes to support my fiction. Again, almost every working writer I know does. They teach, or they have a day job, or they spend a lot of time on the road doing school visits and conferences. For the past six months, I’ve been writing grants (and learning. so. much!—which you know charges my batteries) as well as editing for Damn Interesting and doing website maintenance for a local yoga studio. Oh, and teaching my writing class! Lots of busy, feeding the art.

One of the boundaries I drew eight or nine years ago had to do with blogging. I had the opportunity to take this blog in a direction that would have brought in decent money (for a while, at least; the days of monetized blogs do seem to be waning), but I passed on it. Didn’t feel right; I didn’t like the idea of turning my family life into a business. I know some folks have built beautiful blogs doing exactly that, but the idea has never sat right with me. Even my short stint as a ClubMom Blogger left me feeling uneasy—I was getting paid to blog about a topic (homeschooling) that inevitably crossed over into family stories. I love sharing about our learning experiences here—it’s one of the main reasons I still blog, the joy of sharing the adventure—but I didn’t like the blurring of the boundary I was trying to protect. I was glad to let that gig go, although of course I missed the paycheck. (Boy, don’t we all. They don’t make paychecks like that anymore. Nowadays, people want you to do it for ‘exposure’. Calls to mind the cartoon about the artist who died of exposure—couldn’t pay the rent, you know.)

***

prince

Danny addresses a blogging conundrum in his post, too:

I’ve also been thinking about why I stopped blogging. Busyness isn’t the whole reason. I have written even at the busiest times over the years. I think the issue has been honesty, honestly.

I’ve always tried to be painfully straightforward when I write here. Similarly in my books and when I teach classes. I try to be myself, warts, carbuncles and all. As a writer, an artist and person, I can be flawed and vulnerable. This works less well as an entrepreneur. As person taking credit card payments, I need to project an unimpeachable face.

It’s interesting to hear his take on that. He’s in a different position as the face of Sketchbook Skool, and I think he’s right. If you’re going plunk down your money to take a class, you want to feel confident about the platform and the teacher. I can imagine that he has felt the need to project a positive image in order to reflect positively on the business. I so appreciate his honesty in this post (do read the whole thing, not just these excerpts).

It’s not a face I’m unfamiliar with. I wore it for years, in board meetings, client presentations, job interviews and staff briefings. The authority. The decider. 100% sure. But it’s just not me. And it’s just not my voice, especially not the one I use here, among friends. But increasingly, as the face of Sketchbook Skool, when I came to write here on my blog, I felt I had to be the shill, the Mad Man of Mad Ave, always upbeat, bringing the most awesome! things.

I used to have a thing in my sidebar about how this blog deliberately focused on the positive, the funny, the happy experiences in our family adventure. “The truth, and nothing but the truth—but not the whole truth,” I wrote (and yes, Prairie Thief readers will hear how that idea echoed its way into the novel, whose working title was in fact Not the Whole Truth), “because some parts of the truth are private.” That’s why, I explained, you hear a lot about all the fun we have together—every word of it true—but nothing about, say, tantrums or bad habits. Because ick, how awful must it be to have your mother writing about your worst moments on the internet? In another post, I discussed how I feel free to write about my own flaws and failings (and I do; you know all about my wretched closets and my chai tortilla soup), but I won’t discuss anyone else’s. Okay, maybe the grumpy anti-pinecone guy at the post office that one time. But you know I kind of loved him, too, for the way his grousing brought the rest of us together.

But Danny is talking about something a little different, not about the question of where to draw boundaries in blogging in order to protect other people’s privacy. He’s talking about feeling inhibited about expressing his personal state of mind, his candid take on things, while at the same time representing a business. And there is so much fodder for discussion in that quandary. I’ve thought a lot, these past few years, about the blurring of the boundaries between our public and private worlds. Facebook makes total hash of that boundary, for starters. Sometimes I’m mortified at the awkwardness that arises when one’s professional contacts and one’s most familiar friends co-mingle. Here on the blog, I’ve wondered, from time to time, whether my enthusiastic homeschooling posts might seem offputting to teachers and school parents, and might make them feel like my books aren’t good fits for their kids. I certainly hope not. There are other topics I keep a polite lid on because I find it too great a drain of time and energy to field vituperative comments. I used to get all het up, SOMEONE IS WRONG ON THE INTERNET, and dive into the fray, I’ve mellowed. (“Someone is wrong on the internet—possibly me” is the phrase you come to in your forties.)

And yet I admire it so much when people are fearlessly frank. Sometimes when I’m reading a book that annoys me, I’ll think: imagine if I blogged about things I didn’t like? It’s so much easier to be articulate when critiquing a book’s flaws than to praise it. The only way to praise without sounding saccharine or surface (“It was awesome! I loved it! Two thumbs up!) is to take the time to write thoughtful analysis of what’s working, what’s wonderful. Which takes longer…and can begin to feel perilously like work. Work, I have enough of. And yet I LOVE analysis—reading it and writing it. Some of my best writing on this blog is literary analysis. It just takes time.

Besides, the writer in me—tremblingly placing stories before the public—has too much sympathy for the writers of books I don’t like. They’ve got enough woes to contend with; they don’t need me to point out everything that’s wrong with their last year’s (or years’) labor. And anyway, their book is probably outselling mine. 😉 I always maintain that I’m not a reviewer; I’m a recommender. I want to spend my few snatched moments of blogging time writing about things I love.

***

dowager

And yet, there’s a part of me that would love to tackle fraught topics with gusto. If you know me in person, you know I’m like that; I love discourse; I get fired up; I like to scrutinize ideas and assumptions. My poor husband knows that best of all. I can be pretty snarky in person, too, but I deliberately avoid snark in public writing because I think it shuts down discourse. It’s so easy to crack out a witty one-liner—but it isn’t always respectful. To the topic, or the other voices in the conversation.

As with so much else, the key is balance…being candid without being cruel or glib, being frank without breaching privacy. And when it comes to personal doubts or worries or slumps (to get back to Danny’s topic, from which I’ve meandered far), I wonder if we are all learning how to recalibrate our expectations of writers and artists and actors and others whose work has a public aspect. The internet has decreased our degrees of separation. People want contact with artists they admire. The trouble is, then they want to like them. And let’s face it, we’re not all going to like each other. I’ve felt it myself, now and then—that pang of disappointment when someone whose work you admire has said something truly disheartening on Twitter. Can you keep the work separate? Do your feelings about the book change because you now suspect the writer is kind of a jerk?

I’m a wizard at compartmentalizing, but even so I sometimes have trouble separating the biography from the novel. There’s a thing or two I wish I could un-know. But there are so many books in the world; I don’t need to feel the same degree of rosy about them all as I did when I first read them. As for everyone else—the non-jerks; the anxious, the fumbling, the angry, the laying-it-bare—here again I come back to what I have learned from sketching, from my clumsy and dogged and rewarding attempts to make drawing a daily habit these past eight months (a journey inextricably and profoundly informed by Danny Gregory and Koosje Koene and their Sketchbook Skool adventure)—that line that jumped out at me way back in college when I first read Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. (And why didn’t I listen to Betty and start drawing daily back then?) I’ve written about it here before in other contexts. One of Betty’s students, after spending some time drawing portraits, remarks that now every face she looks at seems beautiful to her.

I think about that all the time. It’s true about drawing; you do start to appreciate all the uniquenesses (advertising would have us believe they are flaws), the bumps, the lines, the crooked features. “Warts, carbuncles, and all” is how Danny put it, speaking of how he used to blog. And oddly, these ten years of immersion in blogs and social media have reinforced the lesson. That devastatingly handsome actor who smolders on my screen is actually kind of a nerd, and it’s endearing. That brilliant writer whose prose leaves me breathless…has a bad back, is inordinately proud of her ill-mannered dog, and her roof needs replacing. She’s a person now, not a name on a spine. And she seems beautiful to me.

All the books

February 5, 2015 @ 9:26 pm | Filed under: Bloggity

Something the ten-year blog anniversary spurred me to do was to tidy up my archives a bit. In the early years, I have the occasional broken link or an image hosted at the original Typepad site. I aim to tackle one or two months at a time, moving slowly forward until I’m caught up to March 2007, when I migrated to WordPress.

As I go, I’m creating a page that will serve as a visual index to all my book recommendations from over the years. Finishing this part of the project will take much longer! But if I add a book or two a day for, oh, say, another decade…well, I guess I’d still be ten years behind.  😉

At any rate, if you’d like a peek at the work-in-progress, here it is!

Ahem

February 4, 2015 @ 7:38 am | Filed under: Bloggity

Someone special is considering reviving her blog. It’s time to lay on the peer pressure, y’all. Pop over there and tell her why she should.

Little happy lists

February 3, 2015 @ 8:59 pm | Filed under: Assorted and Sundry, Bloggity, Snippets

listography top

Every year or two I am reminded that I have a Listography account where, for brief spells, I have experimented with logging various kinds of daily notes. In truth, I have these ephemera all over the place—an old Typepad blog, a for-a-little-while side-blog here at WordPress, dozens and dozens of paper notebooks accumulated over the years…sometimes I wish I’d been consistent and kept everything in one place. One shelf of notebooks stretching back through all the years (not leapfrogging over so many), or one lovely Listography archive like the one Sue writes about in this post, which is what nudged me to check in on my own page. Now of course I know that this blog itself is my most consistent record, and here I have captured much of the stuff worth capturing these past ten years.

But as Sue of Mouse Notebook writes, there’s something particularly nourishing in the daily practice of noting things that made you happy.

Exactly five years ago I began the practice, at bedtime, of writing a list of five things that have made me happy that day. It has been so good for me to do this, to look for the small beauties of life as well as remember the big, wonderful things. I now have over 1700 searchable entries recording snippets from my life over the last five years, which feels like a priceless asset.

Her lists are simple and direct and quite wonderful. I don’t know how I came across her list-page (via Lesley Austin, perhaps?), back in June 2010, but I was moved to follow her example:

Inspired by Mouse’s lists of things she liked today. I’d been keeping something similar in my paper notebook, but this might be a better place (baby keeps running off with my pen).

And reading on, I see how many things I captured that I would have forgotten, had indeed forgotten until this moment.

listography middle

I see I kept with the daily notes barely a week, and then picked up again a year later for a handful of days. Interspersed with the ‘happy things’ lists are collections of links and book titles for various projects I was immersed in. Those have been fun to revisit, too—I’m laughing at the tentative summer reading list from June 2010. I’d be embarrassed to confess to the number of those books I have actually managed to read thus far—though, of course, the list of other books I did read would outstrip that one, thanks in large part to my Cybils-panel stints. (“So, huh, this is like four summers’ worth of books,” I noted at the bottom. Oh 2010 Lissa, you optimist.)

I love that I collected a list of rabbit trails inspired by my immersion in A.S. Byatt’s The Children’s Book, which I’ve reread twice since then! The sight of that jolly face on the jug makes me want to pick the novel up yet again (though it is anything but jolly).

Other sticky-notes there are collections of links I would probably just save to Diigo now, so they’d show in my sidebar. Or Evernote, if they were for me alone. Neither of those platforms (convenient and multifunctional as they are) can touch Listography for visual appeal, though. The look of those simple sticky notes was what drew me to Listography when I already had a perfectly good place to collect ephemera right here at Bonny Glen.

I played a lot of pennywhistle in the summer of 2010. Never got very good at it. By fall I was busy with other things and never circled back around to it (yet). Beanie has recently picked it up, though, and is already far better than I was.

listography bottom

By far the best notes on that page are the lists of happy moments from a handful of June days, a year apart. Planting sunflower seeds with the littles, rolling a ball down the slide, salt water taffy sent by Scott’s brother Jay…I’m glad I captured those. And Sue is right—imagine a list like that kept consistently year after year. What a treasure.

And look! Five years ago I was wanting to memorize all the monarchs of England—and this year I did it! William, William, Henry, Stephen, Henry, Richard, John

Ten Years of Blogging, and I Almost Missed It

January 20, 2015 @ 9:52 am | Filed under: Assorted and Sundry, Bloggity

bonnyglennight_3

I entered the year aware that Bonny Glen’s ten-year anniversary was approaching on Jan. 20, and I had thoughts of all sorts of retrospective posts leading up to the occasion. Then, on Jan. 4, I started a new gig—the kind of steady behind-the-scenes work that makes the children’s-book-writing, homeschooling life possible. I went from Cybils-reading-load busyness to new-assignment busyness, and since I thrive on busy and new (oh especially new), I’ve spent the first weeks of the year in a satisfying whirr of learning and doing.

And I forgot all about the anniversary until I saw Melanie’s post this morning. We began on the same day—a coincidence; we hadn’t met yet; we met through the blogs—and her post puzzled me. Oh, she’s celebrating early, I thought. And then, hang on

The first kid-photo ever to appear on this blog, posted July 2005

The first kid-photo ever to appear on this blog, posted July 2005

Not early; Melanie is timely, I am tardy. It’s no wonder I lost track of the date; Scott is away for a few days on an adventure with his brothers, and on the rare occasions when he goes away, I always turn the house upside down for some kind of grand-scale cleaning/purging endeavor. This time, because I had resolved to sort through ALL THE BOOKS in January, I’m ignoring books entirely and overhauling the clothes situation. Ugh, clothes. Yesterday, up to our ears in piles, we were pondering the merits of Laura and Mary’s two dresses each. In a few minutes I have to get up and return to the fabric mountain. We’ve just gotten Wonderboy off to school, and Bean and Huck are on a “fog walk” (it’s a rare misty, moisty morning here), and Rose and Rilla are taking advantage of the topsy-turvy schedule to sleep in a bit.

Wonderboy and Rilla, June 2006

Wonderboy and Rilla, June 2006

And here I am in the old familiar text window. Ten years of writing here. I began at Typepad in 2005 and migrated to this WordPress site in 2007. I’m always surprised by how short a span of time Bonny Glen resided at Typepad; so much happened in those two years, and I met made so many friends in the blog world, both homeschooling and kidlitosphere, that it seems a much longer period. I’d been blogging for about 16 months when Rilla was born, the first baby whose blog name I settled upon even before we’d chosen her real name. A month later, I was offered a job as one of ClubMom’s regular bloggers, so I set up camp at a second site, The Lilting House, and posted there about three times a week for a year or so. ClubMom shuttered the MomBlog program in 2007 and I folded Lilting House into my archives here. I still have some broken image links from those days that need cleaning up—a Someday project.

In those first years, I wrote a lot about homeschooling—not just the daily glimpses I continue to share here now, but also a lot of theory, a lot of methodology discussion. I was sorting out my ideas and I do that best by writing them down. After a while I had discerned that I would probably never fit entirely into any one camp—unschoolish but not unschooling, Charlotte Mason-inspired but not pure CM, etc—and I coined a term to describe what it is we actually do. I’ve written a good deal more about tidal homeschooling since then, but much more casually than I addressed education method in the first years of this blog. I smile sometimes over the difference between me in my 30s, with a houseful of pretty young kids, and me in my 40s, with a range from college to kindergarten. (Oh my heavens, when you put it like that.) I was so full of helpful advice back then! 🙂 Now, with a lot more experience under my belt, I probably have better advice, but I dish it out sparingly.

view from point loma lighthouse

2007, the year after we moved to San Diego. Photos got bigger after I moved to WordPress!

2007 was the year I joined Twitter, and I can’t remember if Facebook came before or after for me. Either way, I experienced, like everyone else, a shift in blogging and combox conversation after the social media boom. There was a very good discussion of this topic over at Sarah’s last week, and in the course of it I had a little epiphany: even though social networks have had a dampening effect on the amount of conversation that happens in blog comments—what with so many readers preferring to do their chatting on Facebook or Twitter or elsewhere—it’s the humble blog that keeps such discourse lively. I might write a post here that draws a handful of responses from my most faithful readers, who by this time have become dear friends!—but the very same post will generate multiple long threads of discussion over on Facebook. It struck me what an important role the blog post still plays in our online conversation. In Sarah’s comments, I said:

…even though the ease of conversation at Facebook (with reply notifications, user tagging, all the bells and whistles that keep people tuned into the discussion) seems to have given it an edge in the comment department, it’s the *blog* that makes it possible—one permanent link for the original post, easily shared across a variety of networks, with embedded images and links. I couldn’t post a full Downton recap at FB, say, let alone Twitter or Instagram or anywhere else. So no matter what platforms we all drift to for our *discussions*, we still value the blog format for its completeness, its portability, its whole package. Truly, we can’t do without it!

Generating discussions isn’t the only thing I cherish my blog for. I’ve written before about how important it has become for my family—the primary archive of our adventures. I don’t scrapbook, I haven’t compiled a photo album in years, I don’t update baby books. Most of the kids don’t even have them. But I’ve chronicled our stories here for a decade, and we all enjoy laughing over the kid quips in the archives. I didn’t realize just how much it meant to the kids until recently when Bean and Rose told me how often they go back into old posts “to read about our childhood.” They know I pull back on posting kid-stories as they get older, out of respect for their privacy, but they tell me they miss being able to read about the hilarious thing that happened last week. Food for thought, for this blogging mom!

August, 2008. Heart in my throat, looking at this photo today—now I'm reading that same book to this wee girl!

August, 2008. Heart in my throat, looking at this photo today—now I’m reading that same book to this wee girl!

A challenge of blogging has been how to meld the personal and the private—how to share these family stories without saddling my children with a complicated Google history. And how to blend writing as the frank, flawed homeschooling mom I am with a more professional presentation as a children’s author some readers (students, teachers, editors) are looking to connect with. It’s complicated! I mostly muddle through it. I yam what I yam and all that.

But blogging is more than the sum of its parts—more than simple family chronicle, more than author portal, more than a place to engage in the kind of show-and-tell resource-sharing I love so very much—it’s a crucible for friendships. I get a little choked up when I think about all the very real, dear relationships that were born in the comments here. You, my friends. Some of you I’ve had the fun of meeting in person, and some of you live so far away our non-virtual paths may never cross (sob!), but the friendships run deep nonetheless. In the end, I write to share—and it’s you, the friends at the end of the page, I’m thinking of when I sit down and click “Add New.” Thank you—really, from the bottom of my heart—thank you for keeping me company on this journey. I’m so happy to have my own little house on the internet where you can come and visit.

Schmesolutions

January 7, 2015 @ 7:18 am | Filed under: Bloggity, Family, Photos

January 1st
I’m going to blog every day this year!

January 3rd
Well, obviously I didn’t mean weekends.

January 5th
::mutter mutter:: Look, that Downton episode was over 90 67 minutes long. These things take time! A LOT of time. Like, I’d have had to start writing in 1924 to have a recap ready to publish by Monday morning.

January 7th
It’s ready to go live! Now I can get back to regularly scheduled blogging.

::small boy appears, wants to cuddle::

Hmm, maybe not quite yet.

angrybirdshappyboy

(Photo taken by Rilla on New Year’s morning. Thanks again for the excellent gift choice, Godmother.)

I’ll be running the Downton posts at GeekMom this year. Episode 1 should go live today; I’ll post the link here when it’s up.

January, Planuary

January 2, 2015 @ 1:45 am | Filed under: Assorted and Sundry, Bloggity, Books

photo (50)

I made a surprising discovery recently: I realized that since moving to San Diego eight (eight!!) years ago, January has become my favorite month. When I lived in the east, I’d have said it was April—early spring, when you walk outside and feel it coming, a freshness in the wind, the redbuds and dogwoods beginning to flower, the daffodils running riot, the tulips jaunty. Oh, I loved that feeling. The Mary Lennox feeling. I’ve never liked the cold, and Eastern winters were much harder than the sunny-cold Colorado days I grew up with: all that lingering, blackening snow, the dull gray skies, the frozen ears and toes. So the first hints of change—the crocuses, the grape hyacinths, the fountains of yellow forsythia in March—exhilarated me. I love change; it makes my blood sing; and the change that meant spring is here was the best of all, even better than after spring had well and truly arrived.

But here in Southern California, our seasons are different. There’s the Season of Blistering Heat, the Season of Glorious Weather (this lasts most of the year), and That One Day It Rained. And the shifts come abruptly and sporadically, without warning. Any given day could be sandal weather or I-really-wish-I’d-succumbed-and-bought-those-boots. And so I realized that the sweet old sense of change in the air I used to associate with early spring now belongs to a shift less weather-related and more cultural. January, the New Year, the season of beginnings and fresh starts.

Looking through my archives I see I’ve rhapsodized about the Fresh Start over and over, this time of year. January is the month when I deep-clean my bedroom (which is also my workspace) and tidy up the garden. I launch projects (don’t we all): Reading Projects or Crafting Projects or Housework Projects. (This year it’s purging the books. I’ve appointed January the month I have a little conversation with every book in the house and discuss its future. For a lot of them, it’s time to head out into the world and seek their fortunes. Local friends, consider yourselves warned.) I love projects. Love planning them out, at least: as Anne would say, there’s so much scope for imagination in the planning stage. Completion is another subject entirely, best reserved for a different essay.

All through December I found myself looking forward to January—enjoying December, of course, which was particularly rich this year, what with my parents visiting and Jane home from school and a long-awaited visit with very dear friends—but enjoying the anticipation of the impending Fresh Start. I spent part of New Year’s Eve answering piled-up email, achieving Inbox Zero just about the time the East Coast entered 2015.

(Spent the rest of it playing Terraria with Rilla after the boys went to bed, while Scott and the other girls watched The Sting. Thus it was that my favorite moment of the holiday was hearing my pixie-like eight-year-old daughter remark, “Ooh, I’ve always wanted a Deathbringer Pickaxe.”)

My one real resolution for the year is to sketch every day, even if only for a few minutes. All my other plans are the sort that will take more determination to pull off, and I’m therefore afraid to spook them by calling attention to them too directly. I’m keeping my Reading Plans quite casual this year—mostly I intend to read whatever strikes me next, and to try to stick to what’s already on the shelves or the Kindle.

I do mean to choose one category of children’s books to focus most deeply on this year; I often fall into a specialization by accident—say, picture books because I read so many to my kids, or graphic novels because I have so many friends publishing them in a given year, or, like 2014, YA Fiction because I’m on a committee. I try to read broadly, of course—middle-grade and YA, fiction and nonfiction, prose and poetry—keeping reasonably abreast of what my peers are publishing. But I like having a kind of specialty category for the year, one area I can go really deep and try to read everything. As I said, this usually happens by accident; I’m not sure I’ve ever chosen the category in advance. This year I’m having fun thinking about it. Probably it will wind up depending on what kind of ARCs publishers decide to send me, since in the end, that’s the easiest way to keep up with the flood of new books.

alfreddoolittleAs for old books (“old” meaning anything published before this very minute), I have the inevitable nightstand pile, which is much like nightstand piles of previous years. It’s not actually on my nightstand, since I don’t have one, but the pile on my bedroom bookshelf serves that purpose—and the rather staggering queue on my Kindle. I think of these as my Alfred Doolittle books: Books I’m “willin’ to read, wantin’ to read, waitin’ to read.” Books I have probably listed here in the past.

This is also the year I intend to finish Infinite Jest, which may indeed take the whole year.

So:

Resolution—daily sketching

Casual reading plan—Doolittle books + some particular kidlit category

Determination—Infinite Jest

Household project—all the books

Brain food—right now I’m listening to The Sixth Extinction on audio; also a literary lecture series called A Day’s Read (lecture one was on Kafka’s “The Country Doctor” and was pretty good)

Writing goals—I dare not say, but I’ve got them

Blogging goal—the other day, Melanie of A Wine-Dark Sea and I were discussing the upcoming ten-year anniversary of our blogs. Ten! Years! We both began blogging on January 20, 2005—and met in the combox some time later. That anniversary was much on my mind all through December when I blogged so seldom, what with the aforementioned visitors and the holidays and my Cybils reading. This is another thing I’ve been looking forward to with January’s arrival: a return to steady blogging, and a chance to revisit my archives and reflect on what I love about this space and what I want to do more of. So that’s another quiet plan for 2015: a bit of a blogging renaissance.

This got long!