The final hours of 2020, an unparalleled year.
Tomes have been written about this year’s brutal heartaches. The pandemic. Social unrest. Politics. I’ve written my thoughts here and elsewhere, a lone voice in oceans of words. But, generally, on New Year’s Eve, I look inward, because my choices are all I can truly control. And in the effort of keeping this post upbeat as we head into a new year, I’m going to focus on the positive.
This year brought me an incredible opportunity and life changing experience. My internship at Writers House has been all I hoped it would be and more, and I’m incredibly grateful to those who played a role in getting me there and making it so very fabulous. I also adore my fellow interns. I expect great things from them. They’re brilliant. Truly inspiring.
The writers and illustrators in my sphere have been wonderful. For those sad about missing events we’ve had to cancel through SCBWI-Wisconsin or the Fantasy Art Workshop’s Illustration Intensive, keep hope. In-person events will return someday. And we’re all more cognizant of healthy behaviors, so that’s a bonus. 🙂
What does 2021 hold in store? We’ve got a long way to go to recover from our multiple crises, but I’m personally hoping the recovery does begin. It would help to loosen and unravel the collective knots in our chests. And then we can, worldwide, turn our attention to improving our lot.
Personally, I’m looking to dig deeper into publishing, lavish time on Fantasy Art Workshop, and maintain my practice of gratitude, which I started just over a year ago, and has greatly balanced my outlook.
Look, if you’re reading this, on a screen, somewhere relatively safe, and you’re decently fed, you’ve got a lot to be grateful for. Let’s remember just how lucky we are as we step into 2021. Now as always, but uniquely today, we’ve got new chances ahead of us.
Today I’m starting an adventure that looked so different earlier this year.
I’m at an isolated retreat at Write On, Door County, a non-profit that offers retreats not just for writers but for leaders of literary arts programs, in my case the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators-Wisconsin. It turns out I’m the first one to retreat here in the admin category! How cool is that?
I have a whole quiet house to myself on 40 acres. It’s interesting that people come here for isolation, and I’m coming here during a time of nonstop isolation. I’ve been seriously social distancing since March, so being here doesn’t feel quite like the getaway it might have been. However, I’m grateful for the change of scenery, the true quiet outside the city (no sirens!), and the immense darkness found in northern Wisconsin (no light pollution from neighbors’ garage lights or broadly arching street lamps!). Honestly, stepping outside at night I cannot see my hand in front of my face. It’s beautiful… and a bit unnerving. Yeah, I’m a city girl.
I’ll be really digging in to SCBWI-Wisconsin planning this week. We have one virtual event planned for early 2021, and we’re hoping the fall events can be in person. Optimism, folks. Meantime, enjoy some pix. 🙂
If you’re a person living outside the United States reading this, I wonder how you’re reacting to all that’s happened in American politics this year (and the previous three). Of course, we Americans can go online and dip into your newspapers/newscasts to see reaction. It is, obviously, as varied as all human interaction is. But I know that deep down, some of you know all too well the emotions swirling within us.
The undisputed majority of the American public is waking up to a new workweek this morning after collectively spending the weekend celebrating. Many Americans were literally dancing in the streets. Our expulsion of joy comes after days of fraud claims, months of lockdown, and years of political exhaustion. Did we need a release of tension/anxiety/fear/mourning? You bet your life we did. Didn’t the whole human family?
Importantly, we should all celebrate that one of America’s most enduring glass ceilings is finally broken. It’s hard to believe, honestly, that we will at long last have a woman in the executive branch. Other countries have been emotionally mature enough to handle this for aaaaages. Madam Vice President Kamala Harris’s mere presence in the room where decisions are made will undoubtedly change the narrative — because you can’t have fair representation when more than half the population isn’t even at the table. I feared this situation wouldn’t change in my lifetime. I am overcome with joy that it did.
And there’s work to do before the world gets close to a semblance of normalcy. I do hope this time that we go beyond what’s been normal because “normal” has been pretty terrible for too many people. I hope we overcome the opposition and lethargy that’s allowed systemic racism to flourish. I hope we examine our hearts and souls to see why so many not only allowed hatred to grow but actively watered the weed. And we should study our failed government responses because they should, always, illicit more than a shoulder shrug.
And it’s not all up to a new administration. The world can see we’re divided by more than political ideology. Those from countries whose governments are older than the U.S. republic have some history to draw upon and learn from. I picture some shaking their head at us in recent years. I picture some finally relaxing their tense shoulders. So, yes, I know some know all too well what we’re feeling.
Both history and current discourse prove it.
One of my 2020 new year’s resolutions was to read daily – from an actual book, not just news headlines. Authors should of course read voraciously, but we all know how it goes. Life can interfere with even the best laid plans.
Then came the actual 2020, featuring a badly managed public health crisis, its subsequent economic collapse, long-simmering civil and social unrest, and the beginnings of a thinly veiled fascist coup. All has converged, grinding under heel our collective well-being.
So, yes, I’ve been reading, not just to keep my resolution but to stave off constant unease. Also, like many other creators, I’ve found it terribly difficult to get into the headspace to write cheerful fiction.
Thankfully, reading is part of the writing process. So what have I been enjoying lately?
Roll with It by Jamie Sumner is about middle-schooler Ellie, who isn’t letting her wheelchair interfere with her big dreams to be a professional baker. But when she and her mom move to care for her ailing grandpa, Ellie has to start anew in a new town and school. Ellie is fun, straight-forward, and has you rooting for her from the very first page. I’m looking forward to reading Ms. Sumner’s newest book, Tune It Out, about a girl with a sensory processing disorder who has to find her own voice.
The Assignment by Liza Wiemer is about standing up and speaking out. High school seniors Logan and Cade are horrified when a favorite teacher instructs students to argue in favor of the Final Solution, a euphemism for the Nazi plan of genocide of the Jewish people. This book is written by a dear friend and fellow SCBWI-Wisconsin member. Her works are deeply moving and heartfelt. Highly recommended.
It’s a great time to read. Those of us still respecting safer-at-home orders and employing social distancing are spending more time at home. Colder weather’s on the way. And we can all stand to occasionally see the world from someone else’s viewpoint.
Hope you’re enjoying some good reads, too. Share your recommendations in the comments!
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Hispanic Heritage Month starts Tuesday.
It’s always been a special time to acknowledge the history and contributions of the many people who make up the Hispanic/Latinx community. With this year’s racial reckoning and social upheaval, I thought I’d share some data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
Hispanics make up nearly 19% of the U.S. population. That’s almost 1 in 5. The demographics for children are already “majority minority,” meaning minorities make up the majority of people under the age of 18. To be tolerant of other groups now is to be tolerant toward America’s future leaders.
Especially in 2020, I feel it’s best to face facts.
It is with a heavy heart that I share news of the end of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Writers’ Institute. The 30-year-long literary conference is shutting down due to financial loss from the coronavirus pandemic.
It’s hard to express how much of a loss this is for the Wisconsin writing community. The Writers’ Institute was part of the university’s Division of Continuing Studies and provided more than a conference. It offered courses, certifications, workshops, retreats, and a welcoming, thoughtful community to writers of all genres. People from all walks of life, writing in all forms, came together for decades to improve their craft and find like-minded folks.
I’ve twice had the honor of presenting as faculty at the Writers’ Institute, and I posted some pix from those times below. I’ll miss being there again. But I know the UWM-WI community will carry on. Let’s make sure it does.
Thank you, Laurie Scheer, Laura Kahl, and Christine DeSmit, for creating this event and profoundly affecting so many lives.
If you have a Writers’ Institute story, I’d love to hear it! Send it to me in a comment, and, once approved, it’ll show up here. Write on.