Friday, May 25, 2018

What I Love About Being a TA Blogger

One of the things I love about being a TA blogger is sharing the real life issues of being an author.  Like a lot of things in life, the dream of what a certain event will be like isn’t exactly how it turns out to be. 

When we as writers first start in this business, we dream of holding a book in our hands with our name on the front.  We think that once we get published the rest will be easier.   That isn’t usually the case.  I know well-published authors who have trouble finding a publisher for their next book.  

But still, we persevere. The desire to write books for children / young adults still pushes us on. 

So whether you are pre-published still waiting to see your name on a cover-or a published author:  keep going.   From somewhere deep inside you-you must keep going.   

Carla Killough McClafferty

Friday, May 18, 2018

Think Write Love --with Apologies to Elizabeth Gilbert

My dad's 1936 Royal.
    When I heard that my topic of the week was "Why I Love Being a TA," I was stumped. Why do I love (in no particular order) chocolate, reading and my daughter?  I could either write a doctoral dissertation on each topic....or I could say "Just 'cause." All of these, including blogging, are so much a part of me, it is hard to dissect the why and wherefore of my love.

But I'll give it a shot.

Blogging requires thinking. In this case, thinking about writing. I spend a lot of time thinking while writing.  Plots, characters, research details...a lot of thinking. What I don't do is contemplate the act of writing, the why of writing, the reasons I write.

Teaching Authors offers me the challenge of thinking about those questions. The questions I would be answering on say Fresh Air or during an interview with Horn Book...if I were fabulously successful and well known...I am forced to think about here. Think and articulate them to the best of my ability. When I am confused about anything, I journal about it. Writing brings my own fears, failures and frustrations into focus.  Most of the time, things become clearer after I've journaled. TA has sometimes served as my Public Journal.

I love TA because it makes me write. Well, duh, you think. Isn't that what you are supposed to're a writer. Yes. But TA gives me a deadline. Since I am not currently writing under contract, I don't have deadlines. This lack of urgency makes me a slack jack of a writer.  When TA says "By first thing Friday morning," that leaves no wiggle room for me. Feet to the fire, fingers to the keyboard. TA readers expect a post that day....not the day before or after.  (Admission: there have been times when I have forgotten or there has been a monumental emergency, and the post winds up being a "deadline edition" instead of an "early morning edition."

TA's Mary Ann, Carmela, April--Ill. Reading Ass. 2010
Then there is the love. The love of putting words together in a way that makes sense to you and hopefully to your readers.  The love of reading reading reading to see how other authors do this or that...or to just lose yourself for a couple of hours (all the while telling yourself that you will use what you have learned in a future TA post.)

Most of all, however, is the love of my fellow TA's. I have never been associated with such a smart, creative and occasionally irreverent  group of women (as of yet, there haven't been any TA of yet.) Some of them were fellow students in MFA program at Vermont College. Some were friends of friends who I met when we did state reading conferences together. And a few I have to remind myself, I have never met in person. I know them through emails and posts. It doesn't matter. If there is a more caring and supportive group of people...well, I haven't met them (yet...never say never.) We appreciate each other's work; we are poets, fiction writers, non-fiction writers, and a couple of us are multi-genre-ed (I know...not really a word...until now!) Writing is a lonely job. No coffee breaks with co-workers, or Friday Happy Hours. Just you and your chosen instrument of writing. However, the support and advice of my fellow TA's is just a text or email away. God bless them all.

So, in conclusion...being a TA has kept me ruminating about writing, focused and on time, and surrounded by my own support group.  What's not to love, people?

Friday, May 11, 2018

For the Love Of...

As you may remember, I have a cat named Comma. I’ve featured Comma many times in my musings here. One of my favorite postings was For the Love of Comma,  exploring how punctuation influences a reader’s reception of your story.

This week, I lost Comma.

While reeling with this unexpected loss, I am also – now more than ever – keenly aware how fast time flies. And what matters most are the connections, the friendships and the relationships made along the way. And one of the most important for me is my connection with the Teaching Authors.

Teaching Authors celebrates our ninth anniversary. Over nine years, nine fabulous writers who teach have discussed the writer’s life, the art of teaching and the importance of literary citizenship. Jeanne Marie Grunwell Ford. JoAnn Early Mackin. Carmela Martino. Mary Ann Rodman. April Halprin Wayland. Jill Esbaum. Laurie Purdie Salas. Carla McKillough Clafferty. Esther Hershenhorn.

A constant and important theme throughout these many years has been exploring strategies to help build a community of readers, for future’s sake. We have explored best books, and rousing poetry, inspirational characters, and o! the places we’ll go! We’ve featured literary heroes and celebrated our students. We exposed the shadows on the wall, and looked at monsters in the closet.

It has been a rip-roaring adventure. Now more than ever, I remain humbled and grateful that Carmela and my fellow TAs thought I might have something worthwhile to say.

And that’s worth celebrating!

I think Esther said it best with her Celebratory Nonaversary THANKU, and if I may, I repeat it here, for the love of "my TA kin – all nine of them!"

                       Nine TeachingAuthors,
                   beacons each, heart-builders all,
                   en-courage-ing me.

And Thank YOU, dear readers,  for reading my oftimes silly, rambling but always heartfelt posts through the years.

Bobbi Miller

Friday, May 4, 2018

A Celebratory Nonaversary THANKU!

My fellow TeachingAuthors and I are celebrating our Nonaversary!
We’re looking back at our nine years of posting, sharing what we loved about being a part of this original group blog.

I confess:
while the descriptive noun in apposition TeachingAuthor combined the two professions I’d dreamed of since I was six-years old,
and I LOVED the idea of a group blog composed of six children’s book writers who also teach writing,
when Carmela Martino invited me to join such a blog in the summer of 2008, I chewed my lower lip and furrowed my brow.

Me? I thought.
The Slowest Writer East of the Mississippi?!
I was a studied writer if ever there was one.  Weren’t blog posts supposed to be light and breezy?
Me? I thought.
A true Luddite, a digital immigrant with enough techno-fears to accommodate bevies of post-Baby Boomers? Wouldn’t software be involved?
And what about those MFA’s in Writing for Children my fellow bloggers held – and I didn’t? Did Carmela forget I’m The Susan Lucci of Children’s Books?!

Fortunately, Carmela’s “You can do it!” trust in me won out.  I mustered my courage and am I ever glad!
This group blog gifted me with the perfect opportunity to pay Kindness forward, to think about our Readers – and what they needed/wished for/wanted to tell their good stories well, then share all I learned, thoughtfully and honestly, from my journey, my mentors, my students, my writers, my writing kin and my Children’s Book World,
But even better?  My fellow TeachingAuthors, nine in all, in nine years of posting not only taught me volumes about teaching, writing and living the writer’s life, making me a better teacher and author.
My fellow TA’s taught me how to be braver.

Sure. My pre-Monday-posting Sundays were often fraught with angst, plus 911 calls to our Administrator-dash-Tech Guru Carmela.
I’d spend weeks brainstorming a topic, researching avenues, tickling an idea, then tinkering with words to ensure a cogent and interesting telling. Inserting and verifying links, however, sizing and positioning photos, remembering to save text? All these tasks drove me bonkers. Many Monday mornings I’d be up early, checking my post, then correcting my mistakes.
Finding relevant free clip art became a full-time job. I still have nightmares in which I’m imprisoned for copyright infringement.
And I will never forget the spirit-crushing week I spent (a) registering for SoundCloud, (b) then using it to record my chosen poem for National Poetry Month in celebration of our fifth Blogiversary and (c) uploading it to blogger, or not.
Last summer, when the blogger software refused to recognize my new laptop, I was ready to call it quits, no matter my posts’ value or how I’d come to love writing them.
As always, Carmela talked me down and found a way using a new font and Notepad that is so convoluted it’s too long to share.

But thanks to Jeanne Marie Grunwell Ford, JoAnn Early Mackin, Carmela Martino, Mary Ann Rodman and April Halprin Wayland - our first 5 TA's, Jill EsbaumLaura Purdie Salas, Carla McKillough Clafferty and Bobbi Miller, and despite the obstacles, like my all-time Heroine Brave Irene I continue to move forward on my TeachingAuthors plotline.
Irene’s AHA’s! once again proved true: our burdens are often our tickets out; in time a foe can become a friend.

My fellow TA’s – as well as our enthusiastic and dedicated readers – continue to hold the bar high as I do my best to do everything a successful children’s book does: i.e. inform, amuse, encourage, inspire and always, always offer Hope.
I delight in all I’ve gladly put forth - a new book on craft, a writing student’s Success Story, a debut author’s Wednesday Writing Workout, a relevant celebration.  I’ve especially enjoyed taking readers with me on my out-and-abouts season after season.

I especially delight, however, in my October 12, 2011 post that birthed the Thanku – a Thank You note expressed in haiku.  In eight years’ time I’ve used this poetic format to thank my writers, my students, my mentors, my colleagues, my grandson, my Children’s Book World and even my Cubbies.

My Thanku today honors and thanks my TA kin – all nine of them!

                       Nine TeachingAuthors,
                       beacons each, heart-builders all,
                       en-courage-ing me.

And no surprise.  To celebrate our Nonaversary, I’m passing along a copy of William Steig’s BRAVE IRENE to one lucky writer.

Thanks, too, and of course, to our Readers – and – to Brenda Davis Harsham at Friendly Fairy Tales for hosting today’s Poetry Friday.

Hooray and Hurrah to the Ninth power!

Esther Hershenhorn
Don’t forget to celebrate Children’s Book Week – April 30 through May 6!
It's 9:23 a.m. Friday morning and I've already corrected two mistakes!