Monday, August 27, 2007

Checking in from Oklahoma

It's a week in Ooooklahoma for me. (I always say Oklahoma like that -- my parents used to play the Oklahoma musical soundtrack around the house. I always want to sing it when I say it.) While here, I'll be doing school visits and a conference. I've received quite a few e-mails lately asking for a Sammy Keyes update -- I'm working on it, I'm working on it! This morning (after crashing at 8 pm and waking up at 3 am) I finished a chapter. Sammy just cracks me up. It's a nice way to spend the early hours of the day (as I've done since the beginning of the series). In this book, she has the revelation that an easy way to sneak around the seniors-only apartment where she lives illegally with her grandmother, is not by ducking and hiding like she usually does... It's done by camouflaging herself as an old lady! Ha! If you know Sammy, you know that's gonna be one hilarious adventure. She's having to do this because there's something strange going on in the Senior Highrise. And I'm not just talking the Nightie Napper! (That thief will be stopped in a future book.) No, I'm talking about the money Sammy found. Bundles and bundles of money. From poor girl to rich girl in the blink of an eye. But for how long? And who's got an eye on her? Old guys can be deceptively sly. Uh-oh. Time's up. I'm getting picked up by a reading specialist in a baby-blue VW in 15 minutes. At least, that's what I've been told. Gotta get down to the lobby! More updates from Oooooklahoma coming soon!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Having Hope in the Mail

It took me ten years to get a manuscript accepted by a publisher. And in those ten years I went from being married, to being married with two dogs, to being married with two dogs and two kids. Oh, yeah. And there was that full-time job teaching school, too. During those ten years, I wrote actively. I was in a routine of getting up every morning at around 5:00 (because that's when Mark left for work), I'd write until one of the babies would go "Waaaaaah!", then press Control-S and get the kids ready and head off to work. During those ten years, I submitted actively. I sent out query letters, or sample chapters, or shoot--the whole manuscript to publishers and agents in New York. And during those ten years, those New York publishers and agents actively rejected me. "We're sorry, this is not right for us at this time, but please think of us again with your next project." What got me through those ten years was not knowing it would be ten years. What got me through those ten years was Mark's unwavering support. But the key thing that got me through those ten years was having hope in the mail. Hope in the mail--we started calling it that early on, and I love the expression because it really does capture the feeling you get when you put a manuscript in the mail. "Good luck, Great Story" you whisper at the post office, and as you leave, you're whole soul is lifted. You have hope in the mail. Now, that Great Story will likely get rejected, but it almost doesn't matter, because in the meantime you have the energy to continue on your quest. Or to start writing something new. Hope is in the mail. From my ten years of experience with rejection, I learned that half the battle of making any dream a reality is having hope in the mail. And for us it's now a metaphor for taking the steps, making the call, asking for help, doing whatever it takes to get to the next square. The whole idea of having hope in the mail makes me face my fears and put hope in the mail. Hope is a wonderful thing. It's what life is all about--that uplifting feeling that something great could happen... today! For the ETRTR campaign, hope is definitely in the mail. We've been working really hard on putting together dynamite press packets, and they are now winging their way to different parts of the country. It's an enormous relief to have it done, but more than that, I'm filled with that wonderful, uplifting feeling that something great could! So what's your dream? Have you left it hidden in a drawer? Are you afraid of the sting of rejection? Dreams don't come true in drawers. Open the drawer. Dust off the dream. Get yourself some hope in the mail!

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Talk About An Inspiration

I met "JC" when I was moonlighting as a continuation ed teacher. I had a full-time job teaching math and computer science to high schoolers, but also worked two nights a week trying to help kids who'd dropped out of high school get their GED. This was pre-children, back when I didn't really feel qualified to be a mentor teacher. But JC arrived one night eager to help, ready to learn the ropes from someone who was still learning the ropes herself. She already had a child and was holding down three part-time jobs, but she was also somehow whittling away at her degree. Her dream was to become a teacher. I looked forward to Tuesday and Thursday nights with JC. She said I inspired her, but she was an inspiration to me. Always cheerful, willing to absorb, contribute, and improve, she brought a real sense of calm determination in getting those "drop outs" to succeed. She also brought homemade tamales. And cookies. And a wonderful, heartfelt laugh. After my first son was born, I stopped working at the continuation school. And as the years passed, I lost touch with JC. But this week (as I was in the midst of supervising a camping trip with a bunch of my sons' "monkey boy" friends) I got a phone message from her. "Call me back!" she said. "You'll never guess what I'm up to now!" So I did, and I learned that she is now a high school vice principal. Vice principal! From 3 part time jobs to support her family, to endless night school classes earning her BA and her teaching credential, she now also had an administrative degree! "I used to get sent to the vice principal's office," she chuckled. "Now I am the vice principal!" Talk about hard work and determination. Talk about an inspiration.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Cool News From Illinois

This just in from Illinois--how nice! Chicago is ready to run and read! As a reading specialist for 22 Chicago Public Schools, we are looking forward to having our students and teachers take on this challenge to help raise funds for First Book and their libraries. We will be making plans to jumpstart this event in October by sending the word out in September to the schools and the community. October will be a marathon of reading and running towards the finish line at the New York Marathon. I myself missed the lottery for NYM, but I will be running the Marine Corps Marathon on October 28th to help motivate the students to run and read. We are excited to give students the opportunity to exercise and read by setting an exciting goal that they will be able to accomplish. Many Chicago teachers are marathon runners and applaud Wendelin and Mark for making a difference in literacy and children’s physical fitness.