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
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.” http://www.orkin.com/flies/house-fly/house-fly-eyes/
Reading that triggered the poem I wrote that day, which even I don't understand:
WHAT KEEPS ME GOING
by April Halprin Wayland
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 ~