Well, darn. Yesterday, I wrote a super long post, with pictures of all the things I’ve been doing, and super funny parts, and snarky parts, and I put it up on line… and by this morning it vanished into the ether. Hmmm. Ghost in the machine? Was I never meant to share all that lovely humor and information with you?
In any case, I probably won’t post again for a few days, as I’m back to Oklahoma (woohoo! I LOVE these school visits) on Sunday for another week. Y’all try to have as much fun as I’m having – and keep on writing!
But I’d like to talk about one poem in particular today, in light of a couple of reviews (of Wish Girl) I read over the past few hours that reduced me to tears.
The poem in question was taken from a concert program.
One of my favorite musical groups in the world is an Austin-based choir called Conspirare. When I go to their concerts, the heart of the director, Craig Hella Johnson, is always apparent. He feels things deeply, thinks deeply, and his choir’s performances touch the audience in a way I’ve never experienced with any other singing group. (Side note: When I invited a friend to the upcoming concert, she asked what the choir would be singing. I answered, semi-joking, “The Glorious Heart of Craig.” She said “Buy the tickets!”)
In his program notes, Craig includes all the texts he and the other composers included. One of them was a poem by Hafiz, translated here:
If I didn’t have these words close at hand, some days I don’t think I could continue to write. You may not have suspected this. I post a lot of things on this blog, but most of them are positive. The truth about being a writer is that most of what I do fails. Most of my decisions I have to rethink. Most of my manuscripts will never make it to the shelves.
I am constantly failing, in my own eyes and in others. The reviews of my books frequently point out just how far short I fall, what a terrible job I am doing at this thing I have devoted my life to. It is difficult to ignore them.
Of course, sometimes it doesn’t even sting. Because sometimes I write things that don’t matter as much to me as others. Sometimes I write about fart jokes and falling down… but sometimes I write about kids I have known with leukemia, and kids who considered suicide.
Sometimes I write my own heartbreak.
When those stories are harshly criticized, it hurts. But I never, ever cry at those words. No, it’s words like the ones I read this week that make me weep — tears of joy and release, at being heard, at being understood.
It feels like both of these readers read my poem out loud to me, the one that keeps me going on my very worst days – and that they understood what I was trying to do with Wish Girl.
You have not danced so badly, my dear,
Trying to kiss the Beautiful One.
You have actually danced with tremendous style,
O my sweet,
O my sweet crushed angel.
I hope someday, Writer Friends, someone will hear you every bit as clearly, and will share that with the world- or at least with you. It makes every single failure feel like it may have been a success, all along. It makes the tears sweet.
Write well this week. Dance with the Beautiful One.
Howdy, friends! The past few weeks have been amazing. Nightingale’s Nest won the Texas Institute of Letters award (I already bookmarked the award money for new bookshelves, yippee!), I went to the huge AWP conference in Minneapolis to serve on two panels and do school visits, and then the TLA conference was in Austin. I signed with Permabound and Penguin at TLA, went to fancy dinners and cocktail parties, chatted about great books with great librarians, and even judged a book cart drill competition!
Oh, and during all that, I finished my WIP and a proposal, sent it back to my agent, and read a TON of books. Really, really great books.
So, I’m exhausted. And that’s why I’m just going to smoosh a whole bunch of photos in here for you to see what fun looks like. If you see a book here, consider it a FIVE STAR recommendation, and read it NOW. If you see a librarian? FIVE STARS and go buy her a latte. If you see another author? THESE ARE FIVE STAR AUTHORS. Buy their books! You will thank me later.
Here we go, AWP first…
Laura Ruby’s transcendent Bone Gap. Airplane paradise reading.
Jewell Parker Rhodes reading from her WIP at AWP.
Ah, the literati! Janet Fox, Laura Ruby, me, Anne Ursu, and Kristen Kittscher. FUN!
Pure energy in a woman-shaped package: Pamela Klinger Horn. She set up a ton of school visits for me in Minnesota!
Ran into Brian Bliss at last! The End Times must be near. 🙂
My super smart Geography of Nowhere panel: Janet Fox, me, Kirstin Cronn-Mills, and Geoff Herbach.
The ARC of my newest favorite MG read – Bayou Magic by Jewell Parker Rhodes. BUY NOW.
And now for TLA:
Coffee with bloggers! The amazing Celeste Pewter from a Reading Nook Reviews, and Xander!
Bethany Hegedus, Evan Turk, and Arun Gandhi signing the glorious Grandfather Gandhi!
Joy Preble signing her newest YA, Finding Paris!
Anne Bustard first MG, Anywhere But Paradise, and me grasping my first copy… of many. 🙂
Annie Gaughen (A. C. Gaughen) – Apocalypsie Power!
Pam Munoz Ryan and one of my favorite librarians ever, Diane Collier!
And another one of my favorite librarians: Steffanie Audel!!
OMG! I finally met librarian Cynthia Alaniz!! Who was holding my book when we ran into each other. SO MUCH FABULOUS.
Alicia Trader at the Permabound booth, who made me feel like a princess and I cried when she left town. Come back, Alicia!!
Wow. Me, Lindesy Lane, and Guadalupe Garcia McCall. Please, do yourself a huge favor and go read their books this instant. They are unforgettable.
And finally, Paige Britt signing The Lost Track of Time for Scholastic. Her book made a LOT of waves at TLA!
Friends, I would love to go back in and add links at some point, but I have a speaking engagement in a few minutes, and I need to get ready. Have a great week! I’m writing up a storm (and not just blog posts) so if I seem crazy happy? It’s because I’m drafting again. I love this job.
I am back from a whirlwind week at the huge AWP conference in Minneapolis (It rained! It snowed! I made an idiot of myself over several famous authors!), and I’ll post a bit more about that later… but yesterday was my birthday and I got the most amazing present ever.
I am utterly delighted. Like… double rainbow happy. Thanks to the TIL. I am beyond honored.
Now, for my librarian friends:
Would you like to get a copy of Nightingale’s Nest signed? Or an ARC of Wish Girl? Look for me on Wednesday at the big TxLA conference here in Austin. I’ll be signing Nightingale’s Nest at the Permabound booth #1433 from 3-4 p.m.. And Penguin will be giving away ARCs of Wish Girl from 1-2 in the author signing area, Aisle 11!
I’ve never been to Minnesota, but some of my favorite writer people in the world live there. (Anne Ursu? Kelly Barnhill? Why must you live so far away?) So, I hopped on board when some of my other writer friends asked if I wanted to put together two possible panels for a Very Fancy Conference and see if we could get in as speakers!
So, I’m heading up to hang out with the literati, do a few school visits, sign some books, and (I think) dance awkwardly with poets and MFA professors.
If YOU happen to be attending the event, you can find me at the Minneapolis Hilton on Friday and Saturday, at times and places listed below. I’ll be the one trying desperately to sound as smart as the people next to me, trying not to freak out over their awesomeness, and wearing possibly inappropriate clothes.
Like a good train wreck? Come watch me crash and burn shine like the literary diamond I am. LOLOL
Hi, writer friends! I am delighted to announce that the lovely Lynne Kelly and I will be guest teaching authors at a week-long writing residency program this fall at The Writing Barn in Austin, Texas. And Nova Ren Suma, who is one of the finest YA writing teachers around (as well as being a phenomenal writer!), will be the Big Cheese heading up the whole shebang. I cannot wait. I have very close friends who have taken her workshops and gone on to improve their writing immeasurably… and/or to sign with agents on the work she helped them with during those residencies. I just know this week will change some of your writing lives.
It’s November 10 – 14, they only accept 12 writers, and you need 75 pages of a manuscript to submit… so get going! I’d love to see you there.
The Writing Barn, picture copyrighted by my husband, Dave Wilson, so I can use it however I want.
Wow! I’m just getting caught up on my blog posts about last week’s Oklahoma wonderment! I have to admit, I have more fun in Oklahoma than anywhere else these days. Possibly because the librarians are so passionate and engaged with their kids, or maybe it’s the kids themselves… whatever it is, I love it.
Today’s post is about one small part of last week’s amazingness: the Best of Books event on March 11.
Best of Book is one of those hen’s-tooth gems: a small, family-owned bookstore with regular patrons that stop in every day for a chat as well as to browse the newest books. They support local authors as well as hosting super famous ones (Peter Lerangis and Wendy Van Draanen were there the same week I was), and they make every person who walks into the store feel valued.
I sure did. When I arrived, they had a gorgeous display of my books set up, with cookies and young readers already waiting! We painted rocks and had so much fun.
I did my talk, and chose The Perfect Volunteer (Tony, pictured here with permission of his mom) whose job was to hold very, very still with a snake wrapped round his ankles the whole time I read.
A Chapter One has never been so long, huh, Tony? (He was awesome!)
Then I signed books for friends from near and far! Librarian Michele Scheffe from Edmond, as well as Janet Bass (who live-tweeted the whole thing!) and Jenny Regier, the co-creators of the wonderful Twitter chat #sequoyahchat. Jenny drove from Enid, which is a long way…
And my long-lost sisters (how did we get separated in this lifetime?) Rock Star Librarians Tammy Matlock and Susie Masters drove from Stillwater, OK and made my night sparkle even more brightly!
Tammy Matlock, a few weeks before!
After I was done telling funny, true stories, I signed books for all the kids that had shown up. There was one girl in particular who kept peeking around the line to see me. She was trembling, and her lips were quivering when she got to the front of the line, almost like she was trying not to cry.
And then, when she told me who she was, I was the one tearing up. This girl had written me a letter (a real one, in the mail!) a few weeks before, and I wrote back. Then she came to see me in Edmond, even though she lives a full two and a half hour drive away in Muskogee.
Alison, pictured with permission from her Super Mom. Alison is possibly the nicest kid in the world.
She and her mom (who may win Mom of the Year) drove five hours to meet me, and get her book signed. I was stunned, delighted, and humbled. This picture (thank goodness I had the thought to get someone to snap a picture with my phone!) is now one of my great treasures.
And here’s why. The writing life is chock full of pain and rejection and disappointment. Sure, I talk about the exciting stuff… but for every good day, there are ten or twelve where the world tells you you’re not good enough, smart enough, and that nobody likes you/your work.
And then, every once in a while, it gives an author a moment like this. An unforgettable one that leaves a deep fingerprint on the heart.
Alison, you will never know how meaningful it was to see you there. Thank you, thank you. I hope your life is filled with magic and stories and as much joy as the world can offer.
Howdy, y’all! I’m off to Oklahoma (Moore this time!) in a few days, to visit some wonderful schools and… I’m doing a signing/reading/fire-juggling thing at Best of Books in Edmond, OK on Wednesday, March 11. So, if you live in Oklahoma, come out to 1313 East Danforth Road from 5 pm – 6:30 pm, and I will tell ALL the secrets behind my latest novel! Bonus: I may bring a snake, and I will bring an art activity… you just never know with me. I’m unpredictable. (Except when it comes to chocolate.)