Heading into Autumn

Summer is quietly leaning into autumn in Northwest Ohio. Night falls quickly, no more lingering sunsets and light until 10 p.m. No more sitting on the front porch in shorts and t-shirts. The air is getting cooler and the sun is farther away. The grass is fading and the leaves are wilting. We can count on these things, can’t we?

My thoughts turn to planning. Planning for the rush of weeks until the holidays arrive. In my family, our holiday season begins with Hallowe’en and ends with the feast day of the Three Kings, January 6th. In between, we celebrate in ways that grow in meaning as the years pass. Sometimes, that means watching an old movie together, like Beetlejuice, or a new movie, like Coco. It means cooking and baking and looking forward to friends and family gathering. It means making music and making gifts. It means feeling grateful for all of the blessings that have come our way.

My writing changes, too. I plan for the dark, cold evenings that make dinnertime feel like we are eating at 9 p.m. instead of 6 p.m. I’m looking forward to NaNoWriMo this year, my second, during which I will be revising for the umpteenth time a coming of age manuscript that’s been floating around in my head for about 15 years. I am looking forward to Picture Book Summit for the first time this year, getting inspired, and meeting new aspiring pb writers. I think this autumn will be a good season!

Ponderings in the month of 60

Well, I turned sixty last Saturday. Finally having our house remodeled to the point at which to entertain is comfortable, we threw a small get-together to celebrate this milestone birthday. It was just warm enough outside that guests could sit around the fire (with coats on) and listen to my son’s band play on the patio. We ate like royalty, enjoyed the company of family, neighbors, and friends, and all around had a good time.

Then Sunday came, and I learned that a woman I’ve known for fifteen years died of cancer only diagnosed in March. She was my girls’ dance teacher and a legend in Toledo. Even though my girls long ago stopped taking tap and ballet lessons, Karen Niewiadomski will always remain in my heart as one of the kindest, most patient, and talented people I’ve ever known. Losing her was like losing a family member.

And so it goes. I keep on writing through all of it, taking time each day to put pen to paper or fingers to the keyboard and get some thoughts down, or a story line, or a rough draft. Something. Anything. I know that one day, it will pay off, someway.

A few January-February writing achievements…

-Writing every day, every single day;

-reading the ’21 Institute for Writers Children’s Magazine and Book markets reference books;

-Attending Maria Dismondy’s Flipgrid webinar;

-Having my picture book manuscript “Lavender’s Tower Day” critiqued by Katie Davis (GREAT!);

Joining and posting on 12 x 12 Picture Book Challenge (HUGE!);

-posting 5 queries to #PBPitch (Even MORE huge!);

-not giving up!

Snow in February

February is a unique month for me. It has the fewest days in any month even during Leap Year (which makes this Ohioan happy since most of them are cold!); it is my ‘workiversary’ on the 7th; and it is the month I start to think about spring, even though weeks and weeks of winter weather are yet to pass. But something about the sun and its position in the noon sky gets me to thinking of warmer times.

This year, I’m thinking about spring in a way I’ve never done before: will the world be normal any time soon? Will I go back to the office at least a few days a week? Will I see my clients, coworkers, and friends on a somewhat regular basis? Will I be able to travel with abandon, not worrying about hopping into my car without a mask or five?

Right around this time of year, I start to become excited about new writing projects. My motivation to sit down and write for hours kicks in. So, at this moment, I’m happy it’s February! (Oh and tomorrow is Super Bowl Sunday!)

December 1st, year of the pandemic

Who has watched Hillbilly Elegy on Netflix? I’ve read the book, twice. I’ve lived much of it, albeit with a somewhat different twist than J.D.

When I was 4 years old, I played in the front yard of my uncle’s house in Old North Dayton, a few blocks from my own house, on Thanksgiving Day. We cousins had been turned loose after dinner, parents happy to have us run off our energy outside the bungalow my aunt and uncle called home. As I played kickball and tag, I had the distinct feeling that I didn’t belong here. Not as in my uncle’s yard, but as in Dayton, Ohio. I knew at that young age that I didn’t live far enough north, because my mother came from the South, and she didn’t like people knowing that. So I didn’t want to be anywhere near her South, Kentucky, from whence she came during WWII and to which she never returned except for funerals and the occasional family reunion.

So I did move away, and though I moved only to the Ohio-Michigan border, it made all the difference in the world.

Pressing the “Send” button

Well, it’s been a quiet week-end in my house. If this sounds a bit like the beginning of a Garrison Keillor monologue, perhaps its because I just finished reading his latest Lake Wobegon novel The Lake Wobegon Virus. And reading Garrison’s writing, with its simple storylines and understated humor, always inspires my own writing.

As the leaves sprinkled the still-green lawn, I spent time submitting three short stories, two to one magazine, called Kaleidoscope, and the third to another, called Soul Fountain. I tweaked my query letters, neatened up the manuscripts, and pressed “Send” three times. It’s a good feeling! (Even if I didn’t rake one leaf to the curb.)