Friday, January 27, 2017

3 Things I Am Doing Today...What's YOUR Fingerprint?

Howdy, Campers, and Happy Poetry Friday! (The link to PF and my poem are below.)

Today's TeachingAuthor topic is "What are you working on now?" An alternate topic I could have chosen was: "Since the ALA awards were announced this week, what is your reaction as a writer to the success/acclaim for other writers. Does it inspire you, or make you envious?

All last year I was thinking about the fact that we are each a fingerprint. We can only help another so much. Ultimately, each person must discover what works in her life; what her fingerprint is.

So...what am I working on now? You mean, what am I doing today?


That's a tough one.

To be honest...

I'm not sure.

I'm so tired of the dead bodies of stories that stretch back for decades. It's not that they are unfinished. Most of them are finished. The problem is that they're not quite right. I listen to my critique group or a workshop teacher or a mentor or my best friend but mostly myself...and know that I haven't quite touched the heart of the story; it doesn't yet move the reader. I haven't gone deep enough.

I hear their comments, each given kindly in the belief that I can fix the story and then--TA-DAH! I'll send it off with a note in its lunchbox to an editor and it will roll back to me on a rose covered float with a publishing contract in hand.

I hear them. I understand that I need to jump from this lily pad to that one, by the far edge of the pond... But I can't seem to make the changes. I don't know how.

photo by me

This is hard to admit!

In my over-thirty year career as a children's book author and poet, I've seriously considered leaving the profession once before.

I remember that I was driving two hours home from ALA in San Diego on a rainy night. I had just come from a private party, celebrating an award for the book of a dear friend. And I was sobbing.

I passed a billboard featuring a beautiful baby. Maybe I should quit writing and adopt a baby, I thought.

I didn't know if I could go to one more conference where there seemed to be so much success. It was if I had stepped into Facebook where only fabulous things happen to people. I couldn't stand it anymore.

That's not exactly how I feel now. I can celebrate other people's success today. I wish I were feeling anger or rage or defiance. I'm not. What I'm feeling is heart-sickness.

So, what am I working on now? Figuring it all out: who I want to be. What I want to do. Whether I ever want to write again. (That last sentence is not exactly true. Keep reading.)

Some of this upheaval is due to the current political landscape. Part of me feels I have to stop my life and help save the world. But maybe part of me wants to do this precisely because that would be easier than wading through my confusion and sadness. Hard to know.

So here's what I'm doing:

1) For today, I am writing one poem and also writing beside my sister TeachingAuthors. I love writing a poem a day, which I've done since April 1, 2010. I send them to my friend and he sends me his. I won't stop writing a poem a day, nor will I stop blogging, which has opened a door for me I didn't even know was down the hallway.

2) For today, I have not quit my verse novel...the one I wrote and which was accepted for publication by Dial Books for Young Readers over a decade ago and then cancelled, and which I've been writing and finishing and rewriting and rewriting and not writing and nearly setting fire to since 2002. It's bubbling just under my skin. For today I am letting it bubble.

3) For today, I am listening to my own fingerprint. Just for today I am not listening to mentors or workshop leaders or best-selling writing books or even my beloved fellow writers. Just for today, I am listening to what feels right for me, teaching what feels right for this class, for this poem, for this picture book, for this novel. Maybe what I write doesn't fit into today's publishing world. And I have zero desire to self-publish. But still I think about my verse novel almost every day. Mostly with sadness, but with a touch of desire. And some small hope that maybe I haven't yet lived the part of my life that needs to be added to it to complete this book. And others, too.

"I haven't yet lived the part of my life..." Yet is a powerful word.

A month after the election, I was reading about the eyes of flies, for reasons which escape me now:
"House fly eyes are compound organs that are comprised of thousands of individual lenses. Compound eyes are capable of detecting both the polarization of light and color spectrums unseen by humans.”

Reading that triggered the poem I wrote that day, which even I don't understand:

by April Halprin Wayland

"Why," asked Sir Spider, "are you an optimist, friend Fly?"

"I've iridescent eyes," said the ever watchful fly...

and then she said, "Good-bye!"
poem (c) 2017 by April Halprin Wayland. All rights reserved.

For today, those are three things I am doing and an odd poem. That's my fingerprint. What's yours?

Thank you, Beyond LiteracyLink for hosting today ~

Posted by April Halprin Wayland with the help of Eli, who slept quietly on his doggy couch while I wrote.


Heidi Mordhorst said...

Good morning, April. I can't tell you how much I appreciate this post, which echoes in some of its emotions (including some greenish ones I couldn't voice) my post from last Friday.

I'm having trouble writing, too--anything but strongly worded letters. Writing poetry does not feel powerful this week, although it's certainly preferable to shoe shopping, paleo cooking, and maybe even completing report card grading. So maybe I'll give Laura Shovan's 10 found words idea a try, and think gratefully of your fly eyes.

Brenda at FriendlyFairyTales said...

Such devotion to craft, 30 years. It's impressive. I have shifted and bobbed from career to career, but always writing. This is the first time I've been in charge of what I write, and I love that. At least you aren't writing for Trump or someone else. You don't have to find words to sell someone else's ego. Or sell a product no one needs. Or defend someone who was selfish. I have a book that is languishing, too. It's a pain in the heart, isn't it? But at least we are writing for ourselves. It's a comfort to me. Maybe what I wrote is too gentle for today's world, but I wrote it from a good place.

Carla Killough McClafferty said...

April, thank you for another beautifully written and honest look at this career.

jama said...

Thank you for this post, for your honesty about writing and publishing, sharing your doubts. Facebook is quite a mine field -- you can be merrily scrolling through, smiling at the good news of your writing friends and congratulating them, and then one post might hit you the wrong way, and then you start beating yourself up. The comparison game again, which we've been told over and over again not to play. But social media is pretty much all about that. Show me yours, I'll show you mine.
Most every day I wish I had more to show for my lifelong love of children's books.

These days we will struggle harder trying to justify writing when the call to "save the world," "do something for your country" "be of service" is the strongest it's ever been.

But I still believe that the pursuit of art, in whatever form, has the power to heal and shine a light on the best of what makes us human. What else are we fighting for then?

So write on!! The missing piece of your verse novel will soon find you.

JoAnn Early Macken said...

I can so identify with those decades-old stories still missing something, that urge to dump it all for another career, & the difficulty of plowing back into today's work. It helps me to know that I'm not alone, & so does the thought of focusing on today. xox

Jane @ said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you! Thank you for sharing with such openness and honesty. It's so helpful to know that I'm not alone in feeling this weight of expectation, the sickening worry of "what am I doing with my life??" Sometimes writing does feel frivolous in light of the state of the world - I'm not changing the world or saving lives! But, I'm doing what I can, in my own way, as we all are. So thank you again for letting us into your life, and letting us know that we're not alone!

Linda B said...

I've only published a few poems, but just recently had a rejection of a project I thought was good, and while the words back were positive, they also seemed nice and vague. So now I have a whisper of your fight for your novel, and while I'd like to send a hug, I want you to know that you and your teaching authors inspire me often when you share the writing life so openly. Thanks, April, that poem either gave me goose pimples because it was scary, or shivers because it was hopeful. I guess poems give us what we seek. Best wishes!

Carol Varsalona said...

April, as I was reading your honest, gut-wrenching post, I kept hearing the word YET and then you wrote it. You turned the corner and brought a sense of hope to light. I say keep on writing-be a difference maker. Words matter.

michelle kogan said...

I would follow these critters anywhere, "Sir Spider" and "friend Fly," thank you for them! And thanks for your honesty and perseverance, who knows what tomorrow will bring . . .

Kay said... is such a powerful word...and words and stories are powerful, too, powerful enough to change the world. Stories and just the right words can help us see new things through those iridescent eyes. Thank you for your honesty and openness that lead the way.

CS Perryess said...

Hey April,

I love your spider's iridescent eyes, & the poem's unanswered meaning(s). And I understand the ups & downs of this nutty writing life. My first short story was published in 1991, & of the 15 or so novel-length manuscripts I've written are published. "Too gentle for the market" is a typical response. Still, the characters, their situations, & their responses to their situations continue to fascinate me, so I keep writing.

As to what I'm working on now...I'm about 80% through the first draft of a Micronesian metaphysical tale, about 60% through a revision of a story involving Land Art, a kid living in a cenotaph, & his aspie fashionista love interest, I continue writing weekly posts at Wordmonger (my blog), & tomorrow I'll start beta reading a friend's novel. She's brilliant & I can hardly wait to get started. And this leads me to the thought that if your novel in verse ever needs a beta reader, please know I've tossed my hat into the ring.

Thanks for another fine post.

Sally Murphy said...

Thanks for such an honest post April. the writing life is a tough one at times, and joyous at seemingly fleeting moments. your poem gave me joy and left a thumbprint of a smile on my face, so thank you.

Irene Latham said...

Dear April, whom I adore: thank you for this vulnerable, honest post. Have you seen LA LA LAND? Here's to leaping into the Seine, barefooted. And to you and fly eyes and how much you give the world just by existing. You've already written the book that can carry us through this and so many of life's struggles: Dayenu. And how beautiful: a poem a day for 7 years! How many poems is that?? You could wallpaper a cathedral! xo

BJ Lee said...

What a brave post, April! I have felt all of these feelings as well. I jump from one genre to another - my poetry collections, my picture books, my YA, thinking this will be the year. And I believe one of these years, it WILL be the year. But I've also become more zen about my writing, which is the only thing saving me. What if I never get that pb contract, that poetry collection contract, that YA contract? I will still write because I am a writer. Think of all the writers who were not published in their own lifetime! It doesn't mean they were not good because they were published postumously. That could be me and that will be okay because, deep down, I know that I am a good writer and poet.

Sandy Brehl said...

April, PLEASE do whatever it takes to soothe your should and gt your writing feet under you- your voice would be so greatly missed.
We all have those WIPs that won't let us go, and yet won't cooperate as much as we need them to do.

YET is my favorite 3 letter word.


Donna Smith said...

May the writer with iridescent eyes see
The thousands of moments yet to be
Yet not compound their misery.

Keep looking for your fingerprints - Look at your hands. I think they are closer than you think.

Susan B James said...

Oh, how I hear you! I spent so many years wavering on the edge of giving up acting. Writing was a change to my creative focus. I thought it would be easier. Hah! I have a few stories that aren't quite right and right now it's hard to find the energy to fix them. April, I love your work. I think it's a valuable addition to our world. Thank you for it and your poem.

Jeannine Atkins said...

Okay -- I'm also feeling that: all the lovely caring thoughtful respondents have said it better than I can. But adding to the chorus. Such love for you and admiration for your honesty and hard and smart work. Not a minute of it is easy.

April Halprin Wayland said...

Oh, dear, dear Kidlit Community! Thank you for your shoulders to cry on as I wrote this, and now, these virtual hugs--which don't feel virtual at all.

It is a comfort to know that this is not an unknown path.

I find hope in breathing, in the word "yet," and in all of you.

Sometimes I think what we do is as hard as climbing Everest.

Other times I am La La Landing barefoot in the Seine as I write. What a privilege!