Saturday, July 27, 2019

Another Adventure in Newness, Coming Right Up

No sooner had I decided to restructure my Year of Newness ("The Year of the New, Halfway Through") than a great big newness challenge dropped conveniently into my waiting lap. I've noticed that enticing things drop into my lap more often when I sit myself down with my skirts spread wide, signaling to the universe my readiness to receive its treasures. The universe sends me more unexpected gifts when put on notice that I'm actively expecting the unexpected.

This past week I finished the edits on Lucy Lopez, Coding Star, the third title in my After-School Superstars chapter-book series, where each story takes place in a different month-long camp.

Book One: Nixie Ness, Cooking Star (cooking camp).

 Book Two: Vera Vance, Comics Star (comic book camp).

Book Three: Lucy Lopez, Coding Star (coding camp): Cover to come!

Now I had to figure out what the camp should be for Book Four.

As I did promotional events for Nixie's book, I solicited camp suggestions from each audience. Two weeks ago I sent the list to my editor, for her to share with her team at Holiday House. This past week I got their verdict, which just happens to coincide with my own secret yearnings.

Book Four will be set in.... drum roll... sign-language camp!

Just as I initially knew nothing - NOTHING AT ALL - about computer coding, I currently know nothing - NOTHING AT ALL - about sign language. But I learned from researching coding for Lucy's book that I actually like learning things. I especially value unearthing nuggets of wisdom from some specific area of study utterly new to me.

As I sat in on coding workshops and listened to coding teachers, I learned, for example, that "There is never just one solution to a problem" - ooh!! - and "If what you're doing isn't working, TRY SOMETHING ELSE" - another huge epiphany moment for me. I also learned that far from coding's being alien to who I am and how I think, it's actually extremely congenial. I love making lists! I love planning my life sequentially! I love trying to be crystal clear in my language about what I want done! Coding totally fits in with all of these things.

So now I'll have the adventure of learning about American Sign Language. I'm eager for any and all suggestions of how to begin. I can't wait to see what nuggets of wisdom it will offer - nuggets that I can then share with my characters - and my readers.

And myself.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

The Year of the New, Halfway Through

My overarching life/career goal for 2019 has been to make this The Year of the New. As I officially become a senior citizen, I wanted to prove to myself that I could still learn new tricks, take on new challenges, and have new adventures.

I settled on six main new things I was going to do, all career-related, as work does bring me such consistent joy:

1. Teaching my first-ever online course;
2. Writing my first book on a topic on which I initially knew absolutely nothing;
3. Making my first serious effort to promote my books;
4. Writing my first verse novel;
5. Making my first real attempt to publish my poetry;
6. Writing and submitting my first shorter-than-500-words picture book.

The year is now half over, so it's time to take stock on my progress-in-newness.

I taught the online course, a graduate course on the figure of the young female author from Little Women to The Poet X, for Hollins University in Roanoke - and I adored it! I had no idea online teaching could be so much fun. Admittedly I had a small class, just five students, and fabulous, brilliant, highly motivated, witty and wise students - but I bet I'd find students like that in future courses as well. So now I plan to do this again - and again!

I researched, wrote, and revised my third-grade-level chapter book set in an after-school coding camp: Lucy Lopez, Coding Star. That was also a joy, and I'm pleased with how the book came out. I still don't love doing coding myself, but I did love learning about it, especially once I hired a patient and encouraging eleven-year-old tutor to sit next to me at the computer.

I made special efforts to promote Nixie Ness, Cooking Star, including purchasing, and wearing, a chef costume. I'll post again the picture of me wearing it, because I need to get as much mileage out of this costume as possible!
Now I'm going to turn my creative efforts toward the verse novel, and I'm extremely excited about that.

But I'm NOT excited about trying to publish my poems, and I'm NOT excited about trying to write and submit a picture book. I'm just not.

So. . . . I'm not going to make myself do those two things.

Now, I do value keeping promises I make to myself. For 2017, I worked very hard to keep my promise to myself to submit something, somewhere, every single month. For 2018, I worked very hard to keep my promise to myself to log ten hours a month of creative joy.

But this year... well, the choice of exactly SIX new career things has started to feel so arbitrary to me. It lacks the simplicity of, say, deciding to do one new thing every single month. And even as I compiled the list back in January, rounding it out with the last two items, I felt no particular yearning to do those things. They felt like . . . chores. And one of my goal-setting rules is that my goals have to be DELICIOUS. I have to feel a tingle of happiness just thinking about them.

Instead I'm going to luxuriate in the writing of the verse novel. I'm going to take my time with it - itself something new for me, who usually trots along diligently at my hour-a-day, page-a-day pace to my destination.

I'm going to write the poems for the verse novel in lots of new places. When I turn 65 next month, I can purchase half-price bus tickets from RTD, so I'll take myself once a week to Denver and find charming cafes there that cry out to have poetry written in them.

Maybe I'll find new pastries to eat while I write! And new kinds of gelato!

I'm still committed to this being the Year of the New, but with the year halfway through, I'm going to try a more loosey-goosey approach to Newness.

And that in itself will be . . . new. 

Friday, July 12, 2019

Valentine to Grand Lake

I'm back from three days in Grand Lake, Colorado, the western gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park. I took my boys there every summer when they were growing up, and we always did everything the exact same way.

First stop on the drive there from Boulder: the old-fashioned 5 & 10 in Estes Park to buy some little junky toy. Next stop: the Rainbow Curve overlook in Rocky Mountain National Park to greet (but not feed) the chipmunks. Next stop: the Alpine Visitor Center at the top of the world, in the bleak and beautiful tundra above tree line. Final stop: grilled cheese sandwiches at the Dairy King in Grand Lake. 

For the next few days, we would dig in the sand of the tiny public beach, and browse in shops along the wooden boardwalk in this small town, and eat at the few restaurants (NO chain restaurants at all in Grand Lake), and buy new Beanie Baby friends, as well as outfits that fit Beanie Babies (complete with tail holes!) at a little shop named Bunny and Clyde's, and sit on the porch at Grand Lake Lodge with its stunning views of Grand Lake and Shadow Mountain Lake.

This week I was there again, now with my grown son and my two little granddaughters. We stopped at the 5 & 10 and this time bought junky dress-up shoes. There were no chipmunks at the overlook, but we did see one in Grand Lake (Kataleya named him Alvin). We didn't stop at the Alpine Visitor Center because we had already had a lengthy stop along Trail Ridge Road to marvel at a herd of elk extremely close to the car. And we loved the grilled cheese sandwiches at Dairy King so much that we ate there two days in a row.

We played in the lake, choosing to go there in the early morning when we had the beach to ourselves, and it was so quiet and serene.
We made sand castles.
Beanie Babies are out of fashion now, and Bunny and Clyde's is no more, but we bought rubber duckies at the Quacker Store with hundreds (or at least many dozens) to tempt us. 

And we sat on the porch at Grand Lake Lodge, looking down at Shadow Mountain Lake.
I accepted a few new developments in Grand Lake. There is now a wonderful playground in the town park, a true delight. We stayed at a new inn at the edge of town, where you can sit outside on the lovely deck, making s'mores at a blazing fire right at your table. And of course, now I'm there as a grandmother, with two beloved granddaughters fathered by the man who was once my little boy.

Some change is good. But oh, it's bliss to be in a town with no chain restaurants, where the grillled cheese sandwiches taste EXACTLY the same as they always did, where you can park right next to the one itty-bitty beach, and just dig in the sand to your heart's content. 

Maybe some day I'll go there with my great-grandchildren, too.