- Creative minds.
- Past and current authors who have set and raised the standards.
- Editors and publishers who keep acquiring new books in an uncertain economy.
- The inventor of the bookcase.
- Independent bookstores whose inventories are not dictated by a central office.
- Librarians who help to spread the love of the written word.
- Teachers who instill the skill and love of reading in their students.
- Story characters who make good friends you can count on.
- My fellow spuds who come together from our far-flung homes to share thoughts on books and the writing process.
- My five grandchildren who love books.
Ten writers for children. All with something to say.
But at the moment I am especially thankful for the work I get to do with elementary school children. I just finished a week of working with seven classes of fourth graders as a visiting author. I guided the students through the stages of creating a book, from writing a first draft to making revisions to drawing illustrations. I shared with them both past and current writing projects of mine. We talked about the joys, and frustrations, of writing.
Being able to visit each classroom multiple times allowed the students and me to make a strong connection. By the end of the week they were showing me books they had created at home and giving me illustrations they had sketched in their free time. What a delight it was for me to walk into a classroom and have the students cheer, or to receive a thank you letter saying "I never realized how much I liked writing until you came to our class."
As schools continue to tighten their financial belts even more and money for outside speakers becomes harder to find, I am thankful that I am still asked into the classroom. These experiences are rewarding to me on many levels, and for that I am extremely grateful.
As a freelancer, I struggle to contribute half to our financial mix. The last two years have been particularly tough ones in the publishing industry. Still, there was an “up” side to the economic downturn. With fewer assignments I had more time to develop personal projects. For years I claimed to be too busy to nurture my own ideas. This fall marked the realization of a lifelong dream with my debut as an author in The East-West House: Noguchi’s Childhood in Japan. It’s been two years since I had a book out, so my greatest hope was that this new one would put me back in circulation, give me the chance to keep going. Right away an editor I adore offered me an illustration contract. Two other personal author/illustrator projects may be close to acquisition! I have a comfortable amount of design and art direction work to hold me steady. Generally I have established a better balance in my work life between assignments and ideas I want to develop. I am grateful.
We lived in New York for 18 years. I am often nostalgic for that time. I miss the sense of community I had there, miss feeling part of the publishing world. But looking backward, just like looking forward keeps me from recognizing what is in front of me now. If I examine this moment I am reminded that I know many local colleagues in children’s books and have begun some rich friendships. I rely on these peers to help me critique my work and for an exchange of ideas. Our group blog has shown me that I can experience community independent of location—we do mash, don’t we spuds? I am grateful.
As Thanksgiving nears, it's time for the Potatoes to take stock of all the writing things we are thankful for. My list is long.
1. I'm thankful that, once again, I did not quit writing, although I threaten to every year...
2. I'm thankful for my agent, my editor and their role in my latest book deal with Feiwel and Friends that will keep me writing and see my novel The Raft make it to book shelves. ( And I will be thankful at this time, next year, when that book is done and I'm hard at work on the second book of the contract. Um, so I guess I will also be thankful when I figure out what that book will be.)
3. I'm thankful that my second novel is finished, almost ready to be released. The Gardener is out in galley form after a long journey. ( And I must thank fellow potato Mark, who gave me valuable feedback on an early draft.)
4. To show my thanks, I'm holding a giveaway of a shiny new ARC of The Gardener over on my personal blog http://latteya.livejournal.com/ The release date isn't until June, 2010, so you can be among the first to read it. Go, visit, win!
5. And finally, I'm thankful for my fellow Potatoes and the wisdom they impart in every post. I constantly learn from them, it has been so fun to learn more about each individual and celebrate their various successes, and I'm just thankful we have this forum to share our writing journeys.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
After finding their secret, and writing it down, they fold up the secret, and I pick them up in a big pottery bowl. After a bit of a display of tossing and mixing the secrets, I walk around the room and let each participant choose a secret (it cannot be their own). Then, the writers are asked to tell the story of the secret they have chosen.
It is a effective jumpstart into a story because it begins with a secret, and a secret many times implies shame which carries enormous emotion and tension. After writing their secret's story, the participants read and share what they have written. Many times in this process, the secret owner is greatly moved, and drawn in compassion toward the writer who adopted their secret; other times the stories elicit belly laughs from all involved.
I've used this with professional writers, writers-in-process (I hope we all are.), college students, high school students, and middle grade students. Most recently, I incorporated the exercise into a narrative therapy "Word" group at the Covenant House, a homeless shelter for young adults.