I’m so excited to share this news with you. Julie Bogart of Brave Writer has asked me to come on board as her co-host for the Brave Writer Podcast. Julie’s incredible podcast about homeschooling, lifelong learning, critical thinking, parenting, and so many other excellent topics has been going strong for eight seasons and millions of downloads. Which: wow! I was a guest on the show many years ago, and now Julie has invited me to share the mic as her ongoing co-host. We’ve recorded three episodes so far and I am having the best time. Yesterday we recorder was an interview with SUCH an interesting guest, and I enjoyed every morsel of the conversation, and it has me so excited for this new endeavor.
What’s on deck for you today? I’m trying to get my head back into work mode. I’ll be diving into a new Dart (the young middle-grade literature & mechanics guides I write for Brave Writer), this time for the April book, Maybe Maybe Marisol Rainey, a wonderful short novel by Erin Entrada Kelly, whose work I love. I’ve written almost all of the Darts and a lot of the Arrow guides, over the years. They’re challenging to write but it’s really enjoyable work—getting to dig into other authors’ books and talk about what they’re doing with language. I love the playful vibe and the chance to share my enthusiasm for the fantastic books my editor, Dawn Smith, chooses each year.
I write my Darts in Scrivener, so that’s today’s work: setting up the new draft. After almost six years of working on Brave Writer guides, I must say my Scrivener template is a thing of beauty. 😉 My appreciation of Scrivener as a writing tool has only grown over the years. Its learning curve is on the steep side, but there are great tutorials, and once you know how to use its features, it’s incredibly flexible. I do most of my writing in it: novels (the corkboard view that lets you move scenes around is something I couldn’t live without); blog post drafts (although, oddly, not this one); stitching project notes; interstitial journaling; even some planning.
One day last summer, for my own amusement, I googled “Wes Anderson palettes” and sure enough, there’s a Tumblr for that. I found two palettes I loved and used them as starting points to create my own array of preset colors for my labels and files. Because the prettier the workspace is, the more time I want to spend in it.
I’m working on a new novel at the moment, and it, too, lives in Scrivener. I’m able to stash lots of research and reference photos there, and character notes, plot notes, anything really.
One of the best things about working in this platform is that it lives outside my browser. It’s completely separate from the internet. I mean, I can link to things that would open in a browser, but with Scrivener I could work completely offline, if I wanted to.
(I will never want to. It automatically backs up to my Dropbox, and I wouldn’t like writing without that security net. But I could, is what I’m saying.)
P.S. I said I wasn’t going to bother with book links, and I’m mostly not going to? Sort of? This may sound silly, but I miss the way a title shows up in red when I turn it into a link. So maybe sometimes, when I feel like it, I’ll grab a Bookshop.org link. I dunno. I’m figuring it out as I go along. I suppose where I landed the other day was that I intend to eliminate unnecessary busywork. And what feels like busywork is going to change from day to day. Today, I wanted pretty.
Ha, joke’s on me! I wrote this post yesterday morning and left it sitting in drafts, awaiting photos. Went out to putter in the garden and took a spill jumping from the raised bed (I mean it’s not that high, just a step). Smashed flat on the patio. Thumb and wrist now killing me and elbow is pretty ouchy. But nothing broken, I’m reasonably sure. Just sprained, I think? And bruised? And basically furious at me for forgetting I’m not a gazelle?
We scrummaged up an Ace bandage from the first-aid kit and wrapped the hand overnight. I’m not keen on paying a visit to urgent care this weekend, GEE I WONDER WHY, so I’m just keeping it wrapped and we’ll see how I do. Can type for brief periods before my thumb starts to yell but I’m not doing much. Reading. Walking around my garden, longing to dig. Fortunately, the injured hand is my left and I’m righthanded. I might even be able to embroider if I use the hoop stand. Hooray for hoop stands! Okay, no more exclamation points. They’re the ones that hurt my thumb.
(Who even AM I without exclamation points??)
Anyway, on to yesterday’s plague journal. 😉
Things that happened this week:
• I finally planted the veggie starts I bought a couple of days before we went into isolation. (We isolated a bit earlier than the rest of Portland due to some high-risk family members.)
• I repotted a whole bunch of houseplants
• and cleaned the garage
• I got a tower of review books from a (beloved) publisher who, despite nearly three years of dogged efforts to get them to update my mailing address in their system, continues sending packages to our San Diego address. UPS saved up NINE BOXES and redirected them to Portland all at once. Yes, the delivery guy thinks I’ve lost my mind. He’s not far off.
I’ll be sharing these with young friends after I read/review them
• I swapped out the regular suet feeder for the squirrel-proof one (rediscovered during the garage cleanout) because the starlings kept wiping us out, leaving nothing for the bush tits and chickadees. However, the down side of the cage feeder is that the downy woodpeckers and flickers will be as stymied as the starlings. Either way, we only have a few suet cakes left. Our favorite retailer does have curbside pickup during the quarantine, but given the state of things, suet might not make it into next month’s budget.
Bush tits at the old feeder, before the starlings moved in. They’re tiny and travel in a flock of forty or so.
*Sunday update: we spotted a Northern flicker at the feeder this morning! Its beak is long enough to reach the suet through the cage. Not so for the starlings. This may be a solution! Waiting for the bush tits to return. Meanwhile, we had an absolutely new-to-us bird at the feeder just now. Still trying to id. Finch size, blue-gray back (more blue than gray), yellow belly, and the tip of its tail looks like it was dipped in white paint. A warbler of some kind? Photo coming–we got one goodish snap–but transferring the memory card from camera to laptop is beyond my poor hand’s ability right now. As are em dashes. Had to go with double hyphens. This may be the end of me.
• I taught the final week of my Comic Strip Capers class at Brave Writer. I get a week in between and then I’ll start a new session on the 30th. These kids, their comics—such a delight. (My class is sold out but Brave Writer does have openings in other fun courses if you’re looking.)
• I also continued my work on Brave Writer Arrow literature guides. I’m both revising/expanding older guides and writing new ones for the current year’s subscription. I recently finished the Arrow for Bronze and Sunflower, a beautiful tapestry of a book by Chinese author Cao Wenxuan, translated by Helen Wang. The literature guide was challenging to write but oh, so worth it! I’ve walked around for weeks pondering this gem of a novel, turning its poignant scenes and lush imagery over in my mind. I think now that my work on it is done, I might reread it (or read it aloud to the kids?) just for pleasure.
• I worked on a secret stitching project that is different from my OTHER secret stitching project—this one a test stitch of a new sampler for a favorite instructor’s upcoming Creativebug class. Originally I was supposed to finish it by mid-April, but now the class taping is postponed like everything else on the planet. It’s a gorgeous sampler and I’m having a wonderful time with it.
• I went on a few walks in the quiet neighborhood, nodding at neighbors from a prudent distance or chatting from the sidewalk. Our streets are empty but I’m noticing that porches are full. So many more neighbors sitting out front in the evenings.
• Huck is crushed that he can’t play with friends, but at least his very best pal doesn’t have to be kept at a distance. Our next-door neighbor, for whom Huck & Rilla have a standing weekday dogwalking gig, is working at home for now and is therefore walking her mini Schnauzer herself, but several times a day Huck and Barkleigh meet up in the backyard for some buddy time.
I took this photo through the fence. Only one of them noticed.
• I completely failed at playing a game of Ticket to Ride with Huck. I tried, I really did! Couldn’t focus. Got so squirrely between turns, my mind racing. You’d have thought I was the eleven-year-old child, not the mom.
• I laughed over this memory that popped on Facebook from 2013:
So the 4yo is standing beside me and asks, “Are you Mommy?”
“What?” I say, confused.
“Are you MOMMY?”
I’m laughing, thinking he must be playing a game. “Yes, I‘m Mommy.”
He points across the yard at his 17yo sister, nods to himself.
“OK, so that one is Jane.”
• I put in some more work on my rebooted newsletter which I am trying very hard to get out this weekend!* You can sign up here.
*Laughing somewhat hysterically. Obviously that was written before yesterday’s tumble!
Exciting news: something very cool is happening next week.
When Julie Bogart of Brave Writer heard I was planning to do a Prairie Thief readaloud for kids stuck at home, she asked if I’d like to be part of an event she was cooking up with Susan Wise Bauer: a free online conference for homeschoolers and suddenly-home-from-school families. I’ll let Julie explain:
A FREE Online Conference for homeschoolers and “suddenly-at-home” schoolers!
I called Susan Wise Bauer and we put our heads together. We realize many of you won’t get to go to a convention this year, and many others of you are brand new to educating at home (while also working from home!). Susan and I know something about both of those. We reasoned: why not do a free conference online? Everyone will be available! No soccer practice conflicts!So… we invited several friends to join us and we’ve got an entire week of events online planned for you AND your kids!
• Poet Amy Ludwig Vanderwater doing daily workshops for kids keeping writers’ notebooks
• Jim Weiss telling stories!
• Melissa Wiley [hey, that’s me!] reading her novel The Prairie Thief aloud
• Josh MacNeill (Neurologic by Lakeside) helping us cope with trauma and boredom
• Charnaie Gordon (Here Wee Read) teaching about empathy through diverse picture books
• Kate Snow (Kate’s Homeschool Math) helping your kids practice and master math facts
• Rita Cevasco (Rooted in Language) helping us know how to grow readers at home, esp those w learning challenges
• Ainsley Arment (Wild & Free) will share about reclaiming a child’s wonder
SUSAN will share her convention lectures: Homeschooling a Real Child, and Why History Matters. I’ll (Julie) give my convention sessions: Home, not School and Word Play: Creating a reading and writing rich lifestyle. ALL details are here: Homebound Conference.
It’s free, but you must register for each session. We need a headcount. All webinars will be recorded for free replay.We are so excited to do this with you!!!
A collection in progress. I intend to keep adding photos as others share them. What a deep joy to spend time in the company of these smart, creative, funny, wholehearted homeschool moms/Brave Writer coaches. Every conversation was full of new discoveries, meaningful connections, and belly laughs.
Who could have imagined that the Yahoogroups we joined in the ’90s would bring us lifelong friends and nourishing work? So happy to get some IRL time with my brilliant, inspiring, visionary friend Julie Bogart. Not that you can tell from these pics because I always play it cool.
Jeanne Faulconer is another fortuitous connection made on homeschooling lists in the mid-90s. I loved her voice in the Home Ed Magazine discussion groups and was thrilled when our paths crossed in person at Virginia Homeschoolers events in Charlottesville and Richmond. Here we are all these years later, still talking shop and bonding over writing & relaxed education.
I met Farzana Minty at the 2016 Brave Writer conference, at which I was a guest speaker. She came up to me after one of my talks and spoke movingly of some of the parallels between our motherhood experiences. She radiates warmth and kindness in all she does. Getting to spend time in conversation and laughter with Farzana was one of the highlights of a truly magical weekend.
We were supposed to sit with different people at every session during the retreat, to give us all a chance to get to know one another if we didn’t already. But somehow the lovely Rebecca Pickens and I kept ending at the same table, and I enjoyed her company immensely. What a gem my new friend is!
Jai Tracy, Jen Holman, Farzana Minty, and me
Many of us who were supposed to fly out of Cincinnati on Sunday evening encountered cancelled flights. I had just gotten through security and was retrieving my phone from the TSA bin when it pinged in my hand: my flight was delayed and I would miss my connection in Minneapolis. Delta put me up at the Marriott, where I found three more Brave Writer coaches in the same position. (A whole other crew wound up at different hotels.) Our dismay at not getting home on schedule was quickly overtaken by delight at getting to spend some extra time together. Somehow I hadn’t managed much conversation time with Jai Tracy and Jen Holman at any point during the retreat, so I was happy we got to linger over dinner in lively discussion. And I’ll take all the Farzana time I can get!
All my other retreat selfies were taken with other people’s cameras. I plan to scoop them all up to add to this album (starting with my beloved pal Karen Edmisten—a long overdue reunion for us! One worth every minute of lost sleep as we sat up late gabbing). Too delicious an event not to capture.
Heading to Cincinnati this afternoon. Or rather, heading toward Cinci this afternoon—won’t arrive until fearfully early tomorrow morning.
I don’t sleep well on planes (which maybe makes the redeye a dubious plan) so I’ve loaded up on podcasts & Kindle books for the trip. And took screenshots of some Celtic knot tutorials to keep my hands busy while I listen.
I also came up with a hack for easy access of my travel itinerary. I made a phone wallpaper with my flight information on it so all I have to do is glance at my home screen to know where to go. Took me all of five minutes in Canva. I used their Instagram Stories blank canvas because that’s the size of my iPhone screen. Chose a solid blue background and pasted my flight info where it would show beneath my app icons.
I made two images, one for the outbound trip (above) and one for my return trip on Sunday. All I had to do was save both images to my phone photos and then choose the pertinent image as home-screen wallpaper. What you’re seeing in the image above is a screenshot of my home screen with the travel wallpaper in place. (The red and orange text chunks are captions from when I shared this on IG Stories.)
All righty, time to get moving! This bag ain’t gonna pack itself.
(I say “this bag” like I’ve decided which one I’m bringing. I haven’t. Cram everything into the red bag and thus avoid bringing a carry-on suitcase? But it’ll be heavy and a pain to dig through. Or bring the suitcase, which will be very light because I really don’t need much for a three-day trip, and use the smaller backpack for ready-to-hand stuff. Either way, I’m not checking a bag. Decisions!)
Heads up, homeschooling friends! I’ll be teaching two sections of my Comic Strip Capers class at Brave Writer this fall. Registration is open now & this course usually fills up quickly. Can’t wait to see the comics your kids will create!
I first encountered Naomi Bulger’s mail art via her enchanting Instagram account. She has sent hundreds and hundreds of gorgeously illustrated letters around the world, and her delightful “Naomi Loves” newsletter often includes free downloadable templates for dressing up your own snail mail. Like this:
This month Naomi is launching an online snail mail e-course called “The Most Beautiful Letter You Have Ever Written.” It will focus on both the ins and outs of letter-writing—how (and why) to slow down and make time for snail mail correspondence, and how to dress up your letters so beautifully that just the sight of them will bring a smile to the recipient. The course includes writing prompts, tips for compelling writing, mail art tutorials and templates, and membership in a private mail-art pen-pal club. Lots more information here.
(Contains affiliate links.)
The hardest part of writing the Brave Writer Arrow for Kelly Barnhill’s gorgeous novel The Girl Who Drank the Moon was narrowing it down to just four quotes. What a rich and wonderful book. (It was this year’s Newbery Medal winner!) I’m so enjoying writing the Arrow guides. It’s a pleasure to choose passages from someone else’s work and dive deep into the writing, exploring language and craft. This week I’ll be working on the November issue, Johnny Tremain.
This year’s Arrow guides include a fantastic new feature: Book Club Party School by Mary Hanna Wilson. Personally, I think Mary is a party genius, and I’m always excited to see what fun celebration ideas she comes up with for the books I’m writing about.
Today begins the two-week public nominations period for the 2017 Cybils Awards. Please visit the Cybils blog to find out how to submit your favorite children’s and YA books of the past year for consideration!
Now that I have finished radiation treatments and am slowly beginning to feel a bit more like my old self (for chunks of the day, at least), I’m looking forward to sharing regular weekly posts and monthly live chats with my Patreon subscribers. I began the Patreon to help pay medical bills and to support this dear old blog. If you’re interested in subscribing for $1 or more per month, click here. (And thanks!)