I Have a Really Good Excuse

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It started when the county chopped down my favorite half pink, half white dogwood.

It’s the end of March and I know that means it’s time to report on my month’s doings (or not doings, as the case may be). But really, I have a good excuse for this month’s slacking off. Come to think of it, I have several good excuses.

As I mentioned above, there was the whole tree cutting debacle. The county is widening a main road up the street from me and it was bad enough when they took out enough pines to build a small village of log houses. But The Special Dogwood that makes me smile every time I pass its blooming March splendor (and I pass it a lot)? How could I be expected to write through such a blatant disregard for my tree?

Then I had that SCBWI conference, and there’s a ton of stuff to get done before a conference, right? Totally legit excuse for not getting the writing going.

And then I also had a reception in Athens at the Georgia Children’s Book Awards and Conference. Not for my books; SCBWI was there to promote our regional authors, the ones who like to network and get those school visits. Also a totally legit excuse because there was also a lot of stuff to get done before the reception.

I did manage to get several books read even though I had that very bad, horrible, no good cold (also a legit excuse for lollygagging, by the way). Let’s see, I think the total read was five, so I’m still a couple of books ahead on my Goodreads goal. I had to wait two months to get Hillbilly Elegy, a memoir by J. D. Vance, but it was well worth the wait and my good read pick of the month.

I got fired up about a picture book idea after the conference and I’ve written a rough first draft so there’s that. And I managed a couple of blog posts, too. Which brings me to today’s post over at The Muffin where I talk about “When You Don’t Want To Write.”

March was…challenging, remembering how the Beneficent Mr. Hall was so great about shoring me up during the March conference craziness. But sometimes, just when you think you want to throw in the towel, someone comes along.

So a big thank you to Lovely Lisa for a long lunch. And for being there, just when I needed shoring up. I can highly recommend long, long lunches with a writer friend for those times when you need a good excuse for whatever ails you.

And here’s hoping your March was delightfully full of words and writer wisdom; I’d love to hear all about it. It also shores me up when I hear about my writer friends’ successes (and yeah, I could use some fall back good excuses, too, just in case April slaps me upside the head. The county is not nearly done).

Cathy-on-a-Stick Makes a Comeback

So I could tell you all about the amazing bits of writer wisdom I sucked up from all the amazing speakers at the SCBWI conference I just attended.

Or I could direct you to the Muffin where I expounded on some of my best “After the Conference” tips and advice (and I’d love to hear yours, too).

But what I really want to dish about is this pic:

Mitchard and MacLachlan

And yes, that IS the New York Times best-selling author Jacquelyn Mitchard AND the Newbery award winner (for Sara Plain and Tall) Patricial MacLachlan. And yes, that’s Cathy-on-a-Stick right in the middle of ’em.

First, let me just say this: if you ever have an opportunity to hear either of these women, you must go. And I mean, run, don’t walk, to whatever venue they’re appearing. Because both of these glorious women–authors, moms, business persons–are simply two of the smartest, wittiest, warmest and honest women I’ve ever met.

And here’s the conversation we had about Cathy-on-a-Stick after they signed my books:

Me: Can I get a picture of y’all with Cathy-on-a-Stick?

PM (who is nearly blind so could not see details of what I was holding): What is that?

JM takes C-o-a-S.

Me: It’s just a picture of me, on a stick.

PM: Well, that’s stupid. (Or did she say silly? Ridiculous? It doesn’t matter. It was clear she thought it was stupid. And I had to agree with her. )

JM. No, it’s not. I think it’s pretty clever. (Or did she say cute? Whichever, it was clear she thought Cathy-on-a-Stick was funny. And I agree with that as well.)

PM shrugs. I tell her that Jane Yolen had the same reaction but she was a good sport about it. PM does not seem too impressed but she was not going to let Jane Yolen one up her.

JM: Take the picture!

And so now I have this wonderful picture and I laugh every time I look at it, thinking of Patricia MacLachlan dissing Cathy-on-a-Stick and Jacquelyn Mitchard coming to my pic-on-a-stick’s defense.

Oh my word, I do so love an SCBWI writer’s conference!

 

A Quote, A Sign, And a Conference

Comparison is the thief of joyIt’s very possible that I’ve shared this quote with you before. It’s right up there in my Top Ten Quotes and I feel like I say it, either out loud or in my head, at least once a day.

That’s how often I find myself comparing.. Whether it’s my work, my stuff, me.

Except now, I’m aware that I do it. And that’s half the battle, in getting and keeping my joy.

So a very talented friend who’s obviously amazing with calligraphy created this gift for me.(She hears me say it all the time; she’s probably thinking that Cathy and her constant quoting are robbing her of joy!) Anyway, I rushed home and set the framed quote on the dining room table and grabbed my phone to take a picture. Today, I downloaded the picture for this post and as I looked at my phone’s pics, I noticed a glare in the photo. Shoot, I thought, I’ll need to take another one.

But then I looked again, a bit more closely, and I saw it. What I mistook for a glare was the reflection of my gold cross in the joy.

Now, I don’t see how you could get a clearer sign than that, and just in time for my SCBWI writer’s conference this weekend when I really need it.

I’m thinking the good Lord wants me–and what the heck, probably all of us!–to embrace joy, to focus on all of our good gifts and blessings. And that’s just what I plan to do.

(Hope to see lots of writer friends at Springmingle’17 and I promise to tell you all about it!)

January Wrap Up

file00025755561I don’t have a lot of accountability these days.

My original and hard-working critique group broke up, my second critique group didn’t work for my schedule, writer friends moved away…even Mister Man, who, if we’re being perfectly honest refused to read any of my writing but would listen to me talk about it as long as there was food involved, up and left me. And so it’s pretty much up to me, what (or if)  I write.

Then I thought about you, dear writer friends. You can be my accountability! And then you can say, “Oh, yes, Cathy, that sounds fabulous!” Or, “Really, Cathy, you can do lots better than that.” Maybe even, “Sounds good to me, pass the garlic rolls.”

And so here I go:

I finished 30 ideas with Storystorm! It’s a list of the good, the bad, and the ugly, but I did it.

I made a goal over at Goodreads to read 50 books this year, and for January, I read four books. (I didn’t make my reading goal last year but whee! It’s January and I’m on track. So far.)

I talked to my Lovely Agent about 2017 and the direction we could go. I have Stuff To Do; I haven’t quite started on that stuff yet.

I wrote up…let me count that again…yes, um…one, er, one story and sent it out into the world. It seemed like a big deal at the time, y’all.

I had an SCBWI writer’s workshop–awesome author Heather L. Montgomery presented–and it was well-attended and lots of fun! (P.S. She was here doing quite a few school visits and kids LOVE her, so if you want a science geek author for your school, contact Heather!) The first of the year is busy in my position at SCBWI; lots of organizing, lots of emails, lots of planning, but I got it all done. That’s probably why I didn’t get much writing done. Yeah, that’s it. That’s the ticket.

Oh! I finally finished my latest Darakwon book! Whew! I had started it back in the spring, I think, so yeah, it was beginning to be like The Song That Never Ends.

You know, I wasn’t feeling very accomplished twenty minutes ago, but I feel a bit better, now that I see my January Wrap Up. All things considered, right?

So how about you? How’s your January started? Brag a little, whine a little, and pass the garlic rolls. You’re with friends here!

 

A List of Favorite Things! (Pssst! Mostly Books! And Exclamation Points!)

pexels-photoLast weekend, I hosted one of my SCBWI writer workshops at the Gwinnett County Public Library and gosh, it was just packed with wonderful writer stuff! And so I thought I’d share in list form, because…well, I love lists.

  1.  I’d be remiss if I didn’t start with my library. I LOVE MY LIBRARY SYSTEM! The Gwinnett County Public Library is a co-sponsor of these events and that means they do a swell job, promoting events in all of their 30 or so branches. And I–and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators– really appreciate that kind of promotion! If you have writer events, please check with your local library. You might be surprised what they can do for you, because…drum roll, please…they’re mandated to serve the public! Yay!
  2. Author Dori Kleber presented a workshop on the “Hero’s Journey in 32 Pages.” And it was excellent! I wish I could tell you more but I suspect that Dori will be giving that workshop quite often and you know what they say about the cow and the milk. (Wait, what? You’ve never heard that expression? Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free? Mom would say that to me in my younger–much younger–dating days. But in this particular instance, I’m referring to writer knowledge not, ahem, other things.) If you haven’t read her picture book, More-igami, now’s the time to go check it out! (And if it’s not at your local public library, why not ask about it? Your librarian might just order More-igami!)
  3. And speaking of books, NCTE will be in Atlanta this year–this week!–and SCBWI is sponsoring a FREE public book signing! With over TWENTY kidlit authors! You know what makes a great holiday gift for kids that you can feel great about after the holidays? A signed book! So if you’re in the Atlanta area, please come out and see us! And if you’re not in the Atlanta area, take a look around your area. I bet you’ll find a local author or two, signing books, just about any weekend. Think about supporting the authors and purchasing the gift that lasts a lifetime: books!

Well, that was an awful lot of exclamation points but I’m not going back to change any of those punctuation marks. Because I’m that excited. And besides, I love exclamation points as much as I love lists.