Say it: I’m a writer!

I was one of those people who wouldn’t come out and say I wanted to be or was a writer when I first started. I know I”m not the only one who does this. Why is that? We live in a society that thrives off of titles and recognition. We celebrate our differences (well…sometimes), so why is it so hard to yell it to the world?

I’M A WRITER!

Is it because we expect some snarky remark like the following:

  • Well, who isn’t?
  • Aren’t we all?
  • How’s that going to pay the bills?
  • Well, where’s your book?

Well, writer friend, let me tell you something: You are a writer. If you write, have writing goals, are working on your craft, etc. you are a writer. Don’t let anyone tell you anything different!

Seriously, it takes a lot of heart to become a writer. This journey does not come pre-paved or even cobbled. Many of us wander around getting, our feet and legs getting cut with rocks and sticks as we move forward in faith. Yes! We have faith in our writing, even if it may waiver from day-to-day. What we must keep on a daily basis is faith in ourselves. My journey may not be the same as yours, and your journey may not be the same as the next person’s. It doesn’t matter. Own your journey and enjoy it.

Why Cree had to win the day

I took an unexpected detour on my writing journey and did a bit of editing. How did that happen? An old college friend who knew of my published picture book quest reached out to me. When she told me of what she and a colleague wanted to do, I couldn’t say no. They didn’t just want to write a picture book, they wanted to birth a unique character to add to children’s bookshelves. That’s just what they did.

Ti and Lora created a perfectly imperfect African-American girl character. Think on that. Two African-American women from Philly saw a void and filled it. It’s as simple as that. See a need. Fill a need. While self-publishing can come with its difficulties, they persisted. Their community of friends, family, and loved ones helped their dream become a reality. Not only did Cree win the day, Lora and Ti did as well.

Cree Wins the Day isn’t just a story for girls. I have two boys, and the closest rival to this book in our home right now is Pete the Cat. What makes Cree so appealing to them? My 5yo likes that Cree wets the bed. My 2yo likes Cree going to school. (Those are all the spoilers you get. Go buy the book  from Amazon if you want to know more.)

Cree embraces what makes her different. Cree’s abilities, that sometimes make her days  a little crummy, show readers that our day-to-day lives may not be perfect or go as expected and that’s okay. We should always love ourselves and know who helps us to have a healthy mental space. That’s a lesson anyone can get behind.

 

cree

 

Pre-k graduation & other tragedies

Yes, I was on the fence about my kids’ pre-k graduation at first. Then I was super excited about it and disgruntled because we were running late. As luck would have it, so were they. We ended up being like 15 minutes early while also being 15 minutes late. Feel free to let that sink in for a minute.

The graduation celebration basically had two parts. The first part was the kids doing Quran recitations and sharing other tidbits that they’d learned throughout the year (or in my kids’ case, the past couple of months). The second part was more for the parents and gave basic information about the school’s first year of existence. I guess you could say that the celebration was for the kids and the school as a whole. I commend the principal and the board. I mean, I imagine that it’s no small task to start a school!

Anyway, my 2yo was being a typical 2yo and wanted nothing to do with the entire thing. He drank water, kept the teachers running after him, and then came and sat on my lap during the performances. It’s not like he didn’t know the routine. He did it from my lap and cheered his brother on.

My 5yo was awesome. He was most active during the songs, and that’s what I expected. He shook and sang for al it was worth. It was great.

I’m pretty sure they called my 2yo as one of the first ones to get his certificate just to get him out of the way, and I totally understand that. He actually went back and sat with the other kids after he got his graduation cap and goody (goodie?) bags. I couldn’t help but smile when my 5yo proudly got his certificate. He has had an eventful year (in and out of pre-k, a couple of floods, moving, etc.).

The tragedy?Maybe 10 minutes into the parent part, the principal tapped me on the shoulder saying my 5yo had got hurt. Apparently he had been playing on a scooter, and the scooter proved to be the victor. He was upset, crying, and bleeding. I gave him kisses and told him I was proud of him for being so brave. The teachers, volunteers, and assorted sisters of the community all helped. They were great.

So yeah, that totally sucked. But, a little cuddling, ice, and biryani when we got home and all was well. An assortment of text messages from the sisters of the community didn’t hurt either.

All in all, it was an exciting day. But hey, I’d expect nothing less from my family. Oh yeah, I did say tragedies, huh? I guess the other tragedy would be realizing my babies aren’t babies anymore.

Writer’s Life: Waiting, more waiting, and then anxiously waiting.

Hey, I’m all about honesty. If you’ve read even one of my blog posts before, you should be well aware of that. So, now I want to have another one of our good old sit-downs where we take a moment and I hit you with a truth bomb.

I am no less anxious now than I was when I didn’t have an agent. I still check my emails an unnatural amount of times during the day.

I know that may seem a little hard to believe, but it’s 100% true. How can this be? It’s simple. Having an agent has opened the doors for my work to be seen by editors and publishing houses that I typically would not have access to. (Yay!) Having an agent gives me some muscle, if you will, a support system, and a sounding board.

Having an agent has not given me access to a magical fast lane in which my work ascends to the top of an editor’s email queue and said editor then falls over herself at the chance to bask in the glow of my manuscript.

Nope! I still anxiously await to get good news. Even the good news that I wait for has changed. While I would love to only get showered with contracts, it is also a treasure when an editor takes some time out to offer notes on a manuscript and/or even agrees to review it if I’m interested in making some changes.

Waiting is hard at any stage of the writing journey. If it helps, know that you’re not waiting alone. And while you are waiting, use your time wisely. Hone your craft. Experiment with your writing. Do a bit of reading. Take a class. Take a minute away from writing and live. (Yes, imagine the fresh influence on your writing when you’ve had an awesome experience.)

What’s really helped me? I’ve buddied up with other writers who are pretty much on the same leg of this journey, and help encourage each other. We vent to each other. We support each other. We pretty much remind each other that we’re not alone. In all honesty, they are my anxiety cushion so that when I reach out to my agent, I seem like I have it halfway together.

Find a buddy, and buckle up. The path to publication is an unpredictable ride.

On writing when inspired

I know that everything ain’t for everybody. I also know that we writers have our own methods that we use when working in or craft. Still, I am often left somewhat perplexed when people say they only write when they inspired.

First off, I imagine them staring out the windows of log cabins, waiting for nature to show some sort of sign before they put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. I see their faces light up as a majestic bird swoops down from the sky and hovers effortlessly right in front of a window while an assortment of animals exits the woods, congregating to awe at its beauty as well. Aha! Inspiration has hit, and the writers’ minds are now flooded with ideas that will certainly bloom into masterpieces. The heavens have provided divine guidance, after all.

I know that’s a bit much, but that’s how my mind works. Personally, I think that my writing depends more on my motivation than inspiration. To me, they’re totally different.When I’m motivated to write, I have clear-cut goals I’m trying to reach. I’m trying to be on somebody’s bookshelf. I need to write to do that. Uh-oh, an unexpected expense popped up. I need to rekindle the flames of one of my freelance writing gigs. See, that’s concrete. If inspiration happens to kick in at some point, that’s fine, well, and dandy.

I honestly can’t trust myself to solely rely on divine inspiration to write. I would be sitting around like “Oh wait. Was that it? Was that a sign? Hmm…maybe tomorrow the sign will be clearer.” I’d get nowhere.

This morning, I’m neither motivated nor inspired to cook breakfast. Hopefully, my husband feels one of them. I mean, seriously….Who can write on an empty stomach?

Slightly below halfway decent mom status

“Seriously?!” I actually lost count of how many times I said it between last night and this morning. Upon telling my 5yo he had to go to bed because he had school the next day, he cried ferociously, asking “Why does it keep happening?!”
(I’ll admit that I did laugh at that when I was out of earshot.)

Just to keep things interesting, someone unleashed a stomach bug later in the evening that chose its victims as random. They shall remain anonymous to protect their privacy, lol.

My 2yo son was an absolute gem this morning! He ate his breakfast yogurt, brushed his teeth, and got dressed without any fuss. All he asked was that I turn on “Kate and Mim Mim” in the background. Thanks Netflix!

After pleading that they move at any speed faster than the one he was moving in, my 5yo finally got it together. We left 5 minutes later than what I’d wanted, but the goal was in sight. I unlocked the car, and my 5yo climbed in. My 2yo ran in circles around the car laughing and screaming “NO SCHOOL FOR ME!” I’m not sure how long I chased this child around a delightfully dull parking lot in the overcast morning, but I”m sure his arms must have been tired from him pumping them in the air in glee.

If this is Monday, what on Earth will the rest of my week be like? I’m pretty sure that I”m definitely slightly below halfway decent mom status today, and it’s still early.

 

I can’t do it all, and I’m finally okay with that.

Next week, both of my boys will be in pre-school/ daycare. I know that this may not seem like that big of a deal to many, but it’s huge for me. I teach online for a couple of colleges. I write. I occasionally tutor. My boys have been home with me since they day they were released from the hospital. There have been date nights sprinkled in, but they are few and far between.

I am not complaining. I am stating facts. It has been wonderful being home with my kids. I’ve not missed any milestones. I’ve had a chance to be there for them, and we are very close. I wouldn’t trade my time with them for the world.

Yet, I have to be realistic. I can no longer live off of less than 6 hours of sleep. I’m not as young as I used to be. My sleepless shake-back is no longer at college level. Why don’t I sleep much? Like many SAHMs, finishing up the daily cleanup tends not to happen until the kids have gone to bed. (There’s no greater satisfaction than knowing that you’ve picked up Legos for the final time during a 24-hour period.)  Once I’ve done than, I start working and breakfast is right around the corner.

I am fulfilled, but I am also tired. I’m extremely tired. Initially, I felt guilty, like I was abandoning my kids by putting them into preschool/ daycare. But, I realized that I can’t shortchange them or myself any longer. I’m entitled to be well-rested, and they’re entitled to a mom who isn’t too tired to enjoy their endless energy. To be perfectly honest, you want to know what helped me as well? I stopped looking at daycare as another expense. Instead, thanks to my husband’s prompting, I’m looking at it as an investment in myself and our family. (Yeah, there that guy goes with another gem, huh?)

I wear many hats, but starting next week, the next hat I wear is likely to be a hair bonnet while I catch up on some sleep.

My writing. My baby. My fitted sheet?

I know lots of people who consider their writing to be their babies. I’ve had students say it. I have writing friends that say it. I understand that you give birth to an idea. You nurture it and watch it grow. Then, you send it out into the world, hoping that it can not only survive but thrive. It makes sense.

But, I’m not one of those people. I can’t be. If I did, my writing would probably never leave my computer screen. When you think about all he eyes that view your work even before it’s released to the public,it’s a scary thought. I am just now about to put my kids into daycare, and it’s causing all kinds of feelings on the inside. (Naturally, I’ll say more about that when it actually happens.)

I’m not saying that I don’t care deeply about my writing. I’m pretty sure that most writers do. (How else could you harness the energy to relentless write, revise, and repeat?) For me to fully invest in the writing process, I have to think of my writing as a fitted sheet. (I bet you didn’t see that coming.)

If I try to do it quickly, I cannot fold a fitted sheet to save my life. (Let’s be honest. I can barely do it slowly.) I have to really concentrate on it, and I always try multiple times in order to come up with something that I wouldn’t be ashamed to have someone else see. Shame? Yes! That keeps me far away from the “I can write this in one draft” mindset.

No, Ashley. No you cannot.

The fitted sheet mentality ensures that I get critiques and review my writing with a critical lens rather than a rose-colored one. Besides, you can’t have everyone in you linen closet with things all in disarray.

 

 

Storytime showdown

Well, here I am trying to be a professional writer, and my 5yo tells me he’d rather have his dad tell him his bedtime stories. What kind of foolishness is this?! It’s bad enough both of them said dada first. Can I catch a break?

I’m joking, sort of. For real, I did feel some type of way that I wasn’t given the title of supreme storyteller of the Franklin household. Like, that’s supposed to be my thing. I do the writing/ story thing, and hubby does hubby-like things.

Of course I made it my mission to figure out why my kids like my husband’s stories better. The answer:They’re totally action-driven. Apparently, I take too long to get to the good stuff, and they want mostly good stuff.

So, last night, I tried out a story about a frog that gets carried away by a huge storm. It was short, sweet, and full of action. My 5yo said “I really loved this story.”

I’ve said before that I sometimes get inspiration from my kids. It looks like my husband is a good source as well.

Let’s hear it for #TeamFranklin. (smile)

 

Look, Ma, that boy is brown like me!

We were watching an episode of Goldie and Bear on Netflix yesterday. Both my 5yo and 2yo love the show. This particular episode had Jack and Jill at a sleepover with Goldie and Bear. Before I’d even had a chance to fully recognize it, this is what my 5yo yelled:

“Look, Ma, that boy is brown like me!”

The thing is, he didn’t stop there.

“His head is brown, like mine. His arms are brown, like mine. Do you think his legs are shaped like mine too? I think we’re twins!”

Yes, Jack and Jill were brown. He was so excited, all I could do was smile. Moments later, I was a bit sad. If he was this excited, this also meant that he’d noticed a lot of the things he watched had characters that didn’t look like him. Mind you, children’s television has lots of animal and inanimate object characters. That sort of equals the playing field. However, if those same animal and inanimate objects typically have grey or blue eyes, it’s kind of implying the same thing.

Some people think that when we call for diversity, we want to do away with what has typically been the norm. That’s not the case. We want the norm to be more inclusive. We want to share the spotlight. We want our children to see they can be and do anything too.

This experience reminded me of why I am striving to become a published picture book author. I know that I won’t be able to control the artwork, as I’m not an illustrator. But, I will work tirelessly to write stories that may help to widen the types of representations that are available for young kids to see. It’s time for diversity to go beyond being an idea in our heads and something we can tangibly see. Isn’t there a common saying that goes something like  “You have to see it to believe it.” Well, I’m already at the believing part, and I am truly ready to see it.