Friday, December 21, 2018

Poems for Winter Solstice & Winter Writing

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Buffy's Blog for roundup.

Today starts my Christmas internet break, but before I go, I've got two oldies but goodies for you... one specifically about the winter solstice, and the other about writing in winter-- something I plan to do a lot of in the coming months! But, first: Christmas and travel and family and JOY! Wishing you joy today and all days... thanks so much for being such a lovely part of 2018!

written and posted 2014

Winter Solstice

No more hurry

Time now for firelight
and dreaming,

for church bells

with the cold
quiet sunlight.

And somewhere

inside of you

a kernel of courage
unfurling --

each day,
more light.

- Irene Latham

written and posted 2011
Writing in Winter

blades slice
easy 8s
across ice pond

You breathe

arms tight
flung w i d e
tight again

just you
and your tingly

your deliberate

and a whirl
of white

- Irene Latham

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

TRIBE OF MENTORS: Final Q & A: the Joy of Lists

Welcome to the final installment of my TRIBE OF MENTORS by Timothy Ferriss series, in which I have asked myself the questions posed in the book. Thanks so much for reading!

Earlier posts:
Q.1 about books
Q.2 about best purchase under $100
Q.4 my billboard message
Q.5 most worthwhile investment
Q.6 absurd love
Q.7 new belief that's improved my life
Q.8 advice for college students
Q.9 bad recommendations for poets & authors
Q.10 how and when to say NO

Today's question:

When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, or have lost your focus temporarily, what do you do? (If helpful: What questions do you ask yourself?)

So this is a question about getting back on track... no matter how hard we may try, or how good we are at what we do, derailment happens! It just does. Because life is unpredictable, and humans are... human. Here are the words that help me find my way again:

First things first.

Do the next right thing.

One day at a time.

Progress not perfection.

Santa's not the only listmaker! :)
And here's something very practical anyone can do: make a list. Lists have saved the day for me so many times! Just the act of writing a list of what needs to be done helps me feel less overwhelmed. And then when I start ticking things OFF the list? Joy! :)

Monday, December 17, 2018

TRIBE OF MENTORS: Q.10 How (& When) to Say NO

Welcome to the latest installment of my TRIBE OF MENTORS by Timothy Ferriss series. I will post the final question and answer tomorrow.

Earlier posts:
Q.1 about books
Q.2 about best purchase under $100
Q.4 my billboard message
Q.5 most worthwhile investment
Q.6 absurd love
Q.7 new belief that's improved my life
Q.8 advice for college students
Q.9 bad recommendations for poets & authors

Today's question:

In the last five years, what have you become better at saying no to (distractions, invitations, etc.)? What new realizations and/or approaches helped? Any other tips?

something I said YES to:
a trip to climb the fire tower
at Palisades Park
I adore this question! It's still a struggle for me, saying "no," when my life philosophy is pretty much to say YES to everything! But. I am only one person. And learning to say "no" more often has been essential. 

These days I am better at saying no to anything I do not think I will enjoy. Which means asking a lot of other questions about the event, and being honest: will I be required to sit behind a table for hours? NO. Will I be "competing" with other authors, having to "pitch" my books and beg for people to stop by my table? NO. You get the idea!

...another YES...
The question I ask now is not, “Will it be worth it? Should I?” 

Instead I ask: “Do I WANT to? Will it be fun?" 

And here is the kicker: "Is it worth me giving up time with my family and the peace of the lake?”

When I remember that time is a limited resource, it makes it easier for me to be honest about what these events cost me. And the truth is, I am less and less willing to be someplace else when I can be here with the people I love best.

Friday, December 14, 2018

TRIBE OF MENTORS: Q.9 Bad Recommendations for Poets & Authors

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Laura Shovan for Roundup.

I do have a poem to share with you today, but first... welcome also to the latest installment of my TRIBE OF MENTORS by Timothy Ferriss series. Just two more questions to go!

Earlier posts:
Q.1 about books
Q.2 about best purchase under $100
Q.4 my billboard message
Q.5 most worthwhile investment
Q.6 absurd love
Q.7 new belief that's improved my life
Q.8 advice for college students

Today's question:

What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?

Every conference I attend, every author I meet, the talk soon turns to marketing -- especially in terms of how to use social media to promote a book. There's all kinds of advice out there, from creating a website, to joining the latest and greatest platform to branding your print materials, and on and on.

Here's the thing: All of that stuff is distraction. You can't control book sales or reviews. You can't really measure the success of any of those efforts.

The best thing you can do for your writing career is... WRITE.

And sure, if you love Twitter, tweet! If you love sharing photographs, get on Instagram! These are wonderful ways to connect with other like-minded folks. But don't fool yourself into thinking you "need" to do it, or you "must" do it, or not doing any of it is the reason your book didn't get the response you'd hoped for.

There are so many factors involved! I repeat: so many factors you CANNOT control. The only thing you'll accomplish when you attempt to control these uncontrollables is to make yourself crazy/depressed/heartbroken.

Focus on what you can control: the words you put on the page. Quantity. And success in your career will follow!
And now for a poem. This one I found in a book called THE BILL MARTIN JR, BIG BOOK OF POETRY, edited by Bill Martin Jr., illustrations by a slew of artists, brought to us by Simon & Schuster.
This poem came to mind because earlier this week I took a photograph of a pink morning sky -- and that got me thinking about night skies and whatever-the-hour skies.

pink morning
So Many Nights

So many nights.
Blue nights.
Brown nights,
and the sudden lights
In deep black nights
Of stars
And cars
And airplanes
And soft gray nights when it rains
And blue nights with a foggy moon
Smoking in the trees

And pink and red nights
Above great cities
And silver nights all filled with stars
And misty nights when a white mist
And lifts over the white-topped fields
And purple nights beyond the lights
Of your own room
And blue snowy nights
And night that is just
Dark bright night.

- Margaret Wise Brown

What are your favorite skies?

Thursday, December 13, 2018

TRIBE OF MENTORS: Q.8 Advice for College Students

Welcome to the latest installment of my TRIBE OF MENTORS by Timothy Ferriss series.

Earlier posts:
Q.1 about books
Q.2 about best purchase under $100
Q.4 my billboard message
Q.5 most worthwhile investment
Q.6 absurd love
Q.7 new belief that's improved my life

Today's question:
What advice would you give to a smart, driven college student about to enter the “real world”? What advice should they ignore?

I love this question! And it's one I've had the opportunity to talk a lot about here lately with our new college freshman. And, as it happens, my favorite parts of TRIBE OF MENTORS are in answer to this question.
a path my father took
(in North Dakota)

My answer is this:

There's no right/wrong path... just different paths. Whatever choice you make will teach you something/move you toward something. Just choose and GO.

As for advice to ignore: maybe... ignore all advice. Go out and make your own mistakes. Research, explore, do... your life is happening NOW, not in some distant, fuzzy future.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

TRIBE OF MENTORS: Q.7 New Belief That's Most Improved My Life

Welcome to the latest installment of my TRIBE OF MENTORS by Timothy Ferriss series.

Earlier posts:
Q.1 about books
Q.2 about best purchase under $100
Q.4 my billboard message
Q.5 most worthwhile investment
Q.6 absurd love

Today's question:

In the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your life?

I could say all sorts of things here: playing the cello, drinking veggie juice every day, moving to the lake, daily meditation practice, Alanon... the past five years have definitely been the best in my life! And I think mostly it's because of shifting beliefs...
In general: 

Gratitude. Being grateful for everything I have rather than focusing on what I don't have.

Not being so attached to my thoughts/feelings.

Choosing to be happy.

Letting go of things I can't control.

Meeting people where they are, instead of where I want them to be.

Specifically related to my writing career, this quote:

"There is no limit to what a person can do or where s/he can go if s/he doesn't mind who gets the credit."

and this one, for everything: PROGRESS NOT PERFECTION.

I could go on... but that's enough for today. :)

--> -->

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

TRIBE OF MENTORS: Q.6: Absurd Love

Welcome also to the latest installment of my TRIBE OF MENTORS by Timothy Ferriss series.

Earlier posts:
Q.1 about books
Q.2 about best purchase under $100
Q.4 my billboard message
Q.5 most worthwhile investment

Today's question:

What is an unusual habit or an absurd thing that you love?

Maggie keeping the new
quilt warm.
I ran through a number of things in my head before I settled on this: quilts. I love quilts. I'm kind of like a cat lady when it comes to quilts... when I see one, I have to take it home! Just the other day I was in an antique store with a friend, and there was this beat-up quilt. The batting was coming out in all kinds of places, but I just looked at it -- the colors, the stitching, the stains -- and I could just imagine the life it's lived and the stories it has to tell! My friend bargained with the seller, and for $15, I brought it home.

I don't know what I'm going to do with all these quilts. Every now and then I promise myself (and my husband!): no more quilts! But it never lasts. I love opening the closet and just admiring the way they looked all stacked together, those colors and patterns moving and blending... and I love alternating my display of quilts around the house, according to the season. Of course right now the focus is on red and green for the Christmas season.

Here's what I know: We love what we love. It's something beyond our control or understanding, really... maybe even hardwired. And it needn't make sense to anyone else. (the Quilt Lady has spoken!)

Monday, December 10, 2018

TRIBE OF MENTORS Q.5: Most Worthwhile Investment

Welcome also to the latest installment of my TRIBE OF MENTORS by Timothy Ferriss series.

Earlier posts:
Q.1 about books
Q.2 about best purchase under $100
Today's question:

What is one of the best and most worthwhile investments you've ever made? (Could be an investment of money, time, energy, etc.)

So many things come to mind! And they all have to do with educating myself about writing. There's my SCBWI membership, and all the conferences I've ever attended... the Artist's Way support group I joined a few years ago... the writing retreats with sweet friends... the website, the bookmarks, the postcards... BUT... if I had to pick one thing, it would be this: learning to be an effective public speaker.

No one tells you when you say "I want to write and publish a book" that a big part of that life is sharing yourself in a public way -- especially when you write for kids.

The year LEAVING GEE'S BEND was released -- my first novel for children -- I gave over 100 presentations! I presented at schools and book festivals and quilting groups and writing groups and teacher/librarian/educator conferences. I'm a shy person who would much rather be behind the scenes than onstage, so this wasn't easy! However, the more I've done it, the better I've gotten at delivering the message I want... and not just delivering it, figuring out what it is in the first place. :)

possibly my first school visit
as a children's book author
Being able to talk about books is a whole separate skill set than writing them. I'm still learning. But I can do it now without quaking or being sick, which is a huge improvement. I've successfully addressed students from Kindergarten all the way through college... writers of all ages... even auditoriums full of middle schoolers, which is still the most intimidating! BUT. Some of my most meaningful interactions have been with middle schoolers. And it's those connections that make facing the fear, creating the presentations, working to get better at it... all worth it.

Also: something that's helped me on this public speaking journey and in all areas of my life: a regular meditation practice. I use Headspace. Check it out!

Thursday, December 6, 2018

TRIBE OF MENTORS: Q.4 Your Billboard Message Here

Hello and Happy Spiritual Journey Thursday! Roundup is here. Today we are reflecting on our 2018 One Little Word. We are also signing up for next year. 

Welcome also to the latest installment of my TRIBE OF MENTORS by Timothy Ferriss series.

Earlier posts:
Q.1 about books
Q.2 about best purchase under $100
Today's question:

If you could have a gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it – metaphorically speaking, getting a message out to millions or billions – what would it say and why? It could be a few words or a paragraph. (If helpful, it can be someone else's quote: Are there any quote you think of often or live your life by?)

Isn't this a great question on a day when we are discussing words, and the power of words to impact our lives?!

My first thought: Live your poem. I mean, obviously, it's what I celebrate here, on my digital billboard. What does it mean? Well, a lot of things -- and it can mean different things to different people. For me, it means going my own way, being my authentic self, celebrating each moment, diving deep into life, being brave, vulnerable, paying attention, beholding (!), loving the world in the ways that are important to me

What does "live your poem" mean to you? What would your billboard say?

sky pinkens at dusk
beaver moon admires itself
in hushed waters
And now, about my 2018 One Little Word "BEHOLD:" I chose this word because I wanted to really pay attention to each moment of my life, to do more than just look: to behold with wonder and awe and joy.

I do think I've done a lot of behold-ing this year. Moving to the lake has allowed much opportunity for appreciating the seasons and wildlife all around us. But the word hasn't been as much a part of my life as in other years... in fact, a couple of times, I had to look on my blog to remember what my word was! Ha ha! I think it's just been a very busy year, full of change. I am looking forward to a quiet-er, more settled 2019.

Please leave your link here!

Finally, here is a signup for 2019 hosts for Spiritual Journey Thursday. Please leave in comments your name and your topic (if you know it).  We will of course check in with each other via email each month regarding topics. No pressure! Thanks so much for sharing the journey. xo

January 3 - Ruth @ there is no such thing as a godforsaken town -"2019 OLW"
February 7 - Donna @ Mainely Write - "home is where the heart is"
March 7 - Doraine - "balance"
April 4 - Dani Burtsfield
May 2 -  Carol @ Beyond LiteracyLink - tbd
June 6 -  Ramona @ Pleasures on the Page - "significance"
July 4
August 1 Margaret @ Reflections on the Teche - "change"
September 5
October 3 - Karen Eastlund - tbd
November 7
December 5 - Irene @ Live Your Poem -reflections on 2019 OLW

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

TRIBE OF MENTORS: Q.3 Favorite Failure

Today I am continuing my TRIBE OF MENTORS by Timothy Ferriss series.

Earlier posts:
Q.1 about books
Q.2 about best purchase under $100

Today's question:
How has failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success? Do you have a “favorite failure” of yours?

I got my start in children's publishing with a middle grade novel LEAVING GEE'S BEND. That book found a warm, loving readership, and I followed up with another middle grade novel DON'T FEED THE BOY, which also happily found an audience. I thought that's what I was: a poet and novelist. A writer of middle grade novels.

And so I kept writing them. Novel after novel. I submitted them to my agent, who also loved (most of) them. But none of them sold. After four years of this, I was disheartened and questioning everything about myself as a writer.

So I turned to my other love: poetry. I just let myself play and have fun. Eventually I shared them with my agent. We started submitting these projects. And lo and behold, a few of these manuscripts sold! Poetry first, and then narrative picture books.
And then some were released, and more of them sold! I currently find myself swimming in picture books, and I. Love. It.

None of this could have happened if I hadn't "failed" with all those middle grade novels. And I know that every word I've written moves me toward something new, some other learning, some higher plateau. It wasn't a "waste of time." I don't wish I'd re-routed sooner. It all happened just as it needed to.

Just so you know, I haven't given up on middle grade novels. I'm still writing them and have some exciting news I hope to share very soon. :)

Meanwhile, my next picture book MEET MISS FANCY will be released in January, thanks to Excellent Editor Stacey Barney from Putnam -- with whom I worked on that very first novel (LEAVING GEE'S BEND). Cool, huh?

Monday, December 3, 2018

TRIBE OF MENTORS Q.2 Best Under $100 Purchase

Today I am continuing my TRIBE OF MENTORS by Timothy Ferriss series. Read the first post and Q.1 about books here.

Today's question:

What purchase of $100 or less has most positively impacted your life in the last 6 months (or in recent memory)? My readers love specifics like brand and model, where you found it, etc.

Our move from the oh-so-convenient suburbs to the lawless side of a rural county has meant lots of changes, especially about our eating habits. We can no longer dash out and grab take-out for supper. No quick trips to the grocery for eggs. Because the nearest store is at least 15 minutes away, we've had to do more meal planning.

So, a few months in, we ordered stuff from Omaha Steaks. Having food in the deep-freeze is GREAT! But we really do not eat a lot of red meat. (Omaha lobster tails are excellent! Also the apple tarts. Yum!) Lucky for us, in the first Omaha shipment, there was a coupon for HelloFresh. It's a meal kit delivery program in which you choose the meals you want, and they send you the ingredients for you to cook. Check it out:

We signed up -- and we love it! It totally takes the stress out of "what are we going to eat tonight?" We subscribed to the 3 meals a week for 2 package (cost is $10 per person per meal, so $59.99 a week), and not only is everything fresh, but the recipes are inventive. We have tried things we've never tried before, like Moroccan chicken tagine. (Recently they did a series of "global eats," which we particularly enjoyed.) There are so many meal choices, and here's the best part: no waste. It's enough food for 2. We prepare it. We eat it. It's gone! And all the packaging is recyclable.

Who knows what the future holds, but for now we are happy subscribers and intend on keeping it that way. :)

What about you? What's your answer to the question?