I’ve had ENOUGH

I’m hoping to explain to anyone who might NOT be a teacher, what is going on over here behind the curtain of the great and powerful Oz.  Teachers know.  Some parents understand.  But there is a great deal of opinion and slander being bandied about that IS NOT BASED ON FACT.  However, I’m not going to be addressing that today.  I just want to share a slice of my own personal hell so you get a general idea of what is going on over here. Continue reading

New paint

It took a week and a half away from my precious summer time, BUT I painted my giant bedroom and it was worth it.  I am SO happy looking at these “new” walls now, it’s ridiculous.  I get lost just gazing at them.  SO I thought I’d share the fruits of my labors (and my hubby too, of course), as well as give you a tiny bit of insight into me. Continue reading

Be gentle with yourself

Life happens.  It will throw you curve balls when you least expect it.  And sometimes your creativity and all of your goals will dive under the bus when you’re trying to avoid all those curve balls in the Dodge Ball game of life.  When that happens, you simply have to breathe and survive.

I’m experiencing a time just like this.  It’s been frantic since school got out last spring and it’s only more so right now.

I traveled a LOT this summer (both for work–CONFRATUTE! in Connecticut–and to help my hubby with his book tour while also visiting family).  In between travel there were these tiny moments of wallowing in horrible heat and forest fire smoke unlike any summer I can recall in Alaska to date.

I had Texans laugh at my coworker and I when we said our heat was killing us.  It’s DIFFERENT in Alaska.  Our heat may not reach the temperatures of Texas, but it sustains for FAR longer.  We have nearly 24 hours of daylight, you guys.  It doesn’t cool off in the evening or relent.  There is no sleeping in a heat like this that just roasts.  Alaska experienced drought this summer that reduced lakes by 3 feet.  It also allowed horrible forest fires to rage all over our state and drown us in smoke all summer long (to such an extent that the air was damaging to breathe).  I swear all of my clothes hanging in the closet now smell like a camp fire.

Between the travel and the heat? NO creativity work got done.  I had plans, but … no.  And now that school is back in session?  I’m drowning in work with plenty of drama I won’t go into.  Suffice it to say that a K-1 combo class is double the work this year.  Plus planning a local SCBWI conference coming up in a few weeks here.  Plus some family drama I don’t want to elaborate on.  PLUS looking to move by the end of September.  I feel SO overwhelmed and I’ve cried from hurt or stress or just sheer exhaustion so many times.

I feel so guilty about my creative goals.  I feel like I let myself down and I’m not reaching for my dreams.  But the truth is, those dreams don’t go away.  They are always there.  And I will keep working towards them when I can.  I have to survive this month though and then things will get back to where they need to be: balls rolling (not thrown at me), gears meshing smoothly.

Why am I telling you this, dear reader?  Because I’ve met many other dreamers along my journey who have said “my dream is dead because life happens.”  It breaks my heart every time I hear this.  Your elderly parents require all of your care?  Your mentally ill brother is burning out and you are scrambling to help him?  Your house caught fire and now you’re homeless?  God, these things are awful!  I’m sorry you are going through them and I sympathize.  I’ve been there in some of these same situations and life DOES feel hopeless.  But it’s not.

Life happens my friends.  And we keep moving forward one step at a time.  The dreams will wait.  We will survive and then we will return to them.  Don’t give up hope.  And please, don’t give up on your dreams, for that is truly the only way that they will die.  Be gentle with your heart, yourself, and your one precious life.  You have more than enough going on right now.  Don’t add self-punishment to that.  Your dreams will wait, and so will I.  I will wait to celebrate with you. ❤

Summer Time Giveaway!

Sorry to have disappeared after April, but May was a challenge this year!  I had first grade AND Kindergarten with which to wrap up school.  It was exhausting.  I was beginning to be afraid that my age was starting to show (that’s just how dead tired I was at the end of every single day in May!), BUT I was relieved to find out that my 20-something coworkers were just as dead tired as I was.

This is a real “end of school year” teacher occurrence.  It’s the MOST draining time of the year.  Not beginning of the school year (though yes that’s tiring too), or even one of the major holidays (especially ones that involve sugar).  No, the end of the school year is IT for teachers.  My house falls into disrepair and dust.  I sleep a LOT and am still dead tired.  And in Alaska, I’m also getting hammered by allergies at the end of the school year as the trees start to bloom.

Usually I’m kind to myself and give myself ONE week after school is out to sleep.  That’s it.  Sleep as much as I want (and read and chill).  However, I didn’t do that this year.  Instead, I gave myself a day to pack after school was out, before I went traveling for two weeks!  EEP!  What was I thinking??  Then it was back to the same end-of-school-year messy house that had to be tackled.  sigh

BUT I digress.  I have saved a wonderful giveaway for this summer.  Last year, one of my creative teaching coworkers made a wonderful pair of shoes.  Well, rather, she painted them.  She saw something on Pinterest I believe and decided to paint a pair of shoes for the first day of school to look like #2 pencils.  Aren’t they cute?


ALAS!  The acrylic paint she used shrunk the shoes!  She couldn’t wear them at all.  They started out women’s size 11, but shrunk 1-2 sizes smaller.  They could be a size 10 or a size 9.  It’s an unknown.  She decided to give them away and no one wanted them but me.  Not because I could wear them (they’re way too small for me), but because I know JUST HOW MANY OF YOU go to writing conferences during the summer.  And the amount of “book wear” I’ve seen like this at conferences is ridiculous (& adorable!).

SO, if you’re interested in the shoes (mystery size but probably women’s size 9 or 10), leave a comment below!  I’ll give every comment a number and have my husband draw one out of a hat to pick a winner! ❤


EXTRA! EXTRA! THIS JUST IN! Opportunity For Writers and Illustrators!

Just in case you haven’t heard about this one yet! It’s an amazing opportunity.

Susanna Leonard Hill

Hi Everyone!

I know I signed off and wished you all well for the holidays and new year, saying we’d pick up on January 4th.

But I got wind of a contest I thought you’d all like to know about: Writing With The Stars!


Writing with the Stars is a new picture book contest where writers and illustrators apply to win a mentorship from published authors and illustrators. The mentors will evaluate the applications and pick a winner to work with for three months. The contest is open to unpublished and un-agented picture book writers and illustrators. All the details can be found at http://beckytarabooks.com/contest/

Doesn’t that sound amazing?!  And you could win a mentorship with Lori Richmond, Andrea Zuill, Camille Andros, DJ Steinberg, Stacy McAnulty, Peter McCleery, Beth Ferry, Penny Parker Klostermann, Paul Czajak, Laura Gehl, Katy Duffield, and many more!

Such an incredible opportunity!

Please share with anyone…

View original post 47 more words

But WAIT! There’s more!

Work, connubial bliss, the holidays and creative work.  It’s all conspiring to eat up my time.  It keeps me away from blogging.  BUT never fear!  Jena IS here!

The good news: I have two more Simply 7 interviews lined up but … there will be a wait.  Sorry.  I’m waiting too.  Sometimes responses aren’t immediate.  BUT they will be worth the wait!  I promise!

Even better news: there is going to be a contest here!  YES!  I am going to be hosting a contest of my very own.  It will be for illustrators and doodlers (instead of writers this time).  It will be a daily drawing prompt for every day of December.  AM I CRAZY?!  No.  I promise.  I will explain.  BUT you will have to wait for that too.

And the really cool name.  I will premiere it all soon.  I promise.  Just wait for it…

Do NOT give up!

Sometimes after a conference, you will experience an emotional high or low.  Last weekend after one writing/illustrating conference, I had an emotional low.  This weekend (after another similar conference), I’m on a high.  What makes the difference?

There wasn’t anything in particular anyone said.  We heard and saw amazing things and yet everyone at the first conference was highly intimidated.  We saw amazing illustrations from successful illustrators that blew our mind and almost universally said “I wish I could do that.”  Which was quickly followed by “OMG I can’t do that!” and inevitably “my work is no good.”  I saw it repeatedly in the others around me and tried to encourage them.

There was a LOT of talent in that room, with artists of a LOT of different types: one was a water color artist, one a wood block printing artist, another a scientific illustrator, etc.  And THEY too were producing amazing things that I couldn’t hope to achieve.  But just as I told them, I cannot hope to be them; I can only be myself.  We each of us have different passions and talents that we bring to the table.

The work we saw was from an Art Director who was trying to show a variety of artists, a variety of styles, and why they succeeded to give us an idea of what is looked for in the illustration world.  And yet somehow, we were all overwhelmed in a negative way.

I kept telling others the message I took away from this was “do what YOU do, pursue it, and perfect it.  Find your schtick!  And it will be what is needed.”  And this helped to encourage some of them.  But by the time I got home, I was in a terrible funk myself.  I took that message home with me, but I didn’t take it to heart.  I simply felt like I’d let a perfect opportunity (an open door if you will) pass me by because I wasn’t prepared.  And to be frank, I wasn’t.

This was a busy summer.  Between falling madly in love, planning a wedding, then a move, then the start of the school year setting up my classroom with my new name, etc., I simply didn’t have time to devote to polishing up my Portfolio as much as I wanted to.  My first step out into the illustration world felt like I’d stumbled and then had a great big fall like Humpty Dumpty and couldn’t ever put myself together again. I even had thoughts of giving up.

My husband (love of my life that he is) found me crying at one point (as I’d tucked myself away in a back room for a bit of a pity party) and had to talk me back up from this ledge of “I don’t have what it takes, why am I even trying.”  How is it that I can encourage others with what I see, but I can’t do the same for myself.

Deciding to write picture books and learning that process didn’t happen overnight (in fact it’s still a work in progress).  WHY do I think learning the illustration process is going to be any different?  The funny thing is that I went in prepared for nothing to happen, but to just look at it as a learning process and yet … it’s still scary putting yourself and your work out there for others to see, isn’t it?

This weekend, I had the privilege of listening to one of my writing heroes, Jane Yolen, talk about rejection.  EVEN she fails!  And she has published umpteen books!  She talked about holding onto a rejected project for 20 years until the time was right.  And sometimes that’s all it is!  Timing.

I should know this better than anyone.  It took me 40 years of being single before I met my soulmate.  And when he came along, he wasn’t what I expected.  But oh my Lord how our souls do fit together!  Finding an agent, or a home for a manuscript, etc. is just like the search for a soulmate.  Last weekend Robert Dugoni said much the same thing: “All you need to find is that one!”  That one who believes in you, supports you, and is your biggest fan and encourager.

Yesterday I also got to see the first draft of a Newberry award winning manuscript that the author so bravely decided to share with us.  I was blown away by this.  Not only because of how humble he made himself in doing so, but because he was willing to show his own struggles in the beginning to where he got with his final product.  We all have to start somewhere my friends.  This is a journey, not a destination.

Is there ever a day where we reach a point of being perfect at writing?  At being perfect in producing our art?  NO!  Not even Jane Yolen is there!  She writes sticky note revelations that she sometimes has to trash!  She has a critique group to help her polish her work and point out when her endings are endings at all!  Bless her!  I’m so glad to hear that even those who are successful struggle.  And trust me, the struggle is REAL!

It can tear all of us down.  The difference between those of us who quit and those of us who are successful is only a matter of who of us will brush ourselves off, pick ourselves up, and keep pushing forward.  Because we must.  Because we have to.  We can’t stop trying and producing books and art because it’s our passion.  We can’t let our own self doubts beat us up.  We can’t!

Perhaps Winston Churchill said it best, so I will end this particular musing of mine with his words of inspiration for us all  (listen to it as a writer or an illustrator and it carries new power): Never Give up