I’ve been teaching nearly full-time for the past five years, and while I love doing it, it does take time away from my writing. The fact is, I didn’t go back to school to be a better instructor, I went back to become a better writer, so I am greatly relieved to have a few plans begin to fall into place for me at last. I guess it goes back to that whole “Law of Attraction” thing again. I’ve spent a lot of time focusing and meditating on what it is that I want in my life, and it is finally starting to happen. Much of it has to do with writing, and my desire to make that a more central part of my life.
I can’t just up and quit my teaching job, especially since that’s where our insurance coverage comes from. However, I have been offered a new job that will allow me to reduce the number of hours I teach but still keep my benefits! After 18 months of discussion back and forth, I have been hired by the Institute of Children’s Literature (ICL) as one of their instructors. This new job allows me to keep my focus on children’s writing while still working part-time at the college. I won’t lose any income, and I’ll be focusing my attention on the thing I love the most – writing for children.
The other benefit is that I will have more personal time for working on my own books. ICL allows instructors to set their own schedules. As long as you return work within the deadline, they don’t care if it’s done at 2:00 on Sunday morning, or 2:00 on Thursday afternoon.
Interestingly, the same day I received notice that ICL was bringing me to Connecticut for training, I was asked by Vermont College to serve on a committee for MFA alumni. We are putting together a “continuing education” program of sorts. It will be a mini on-campus residency program that will feature Master classes with faculty, alumni, and former faculty from our program. These include writers such as M.T. Anderson, winner of the National Book Award for Juvenile Fiction; Martine Leavitt, alumni and finalist for the National Book Award for Juvenile Fiction; Marion Dane Bauer, former faculty member and winner of the Newberry Award; Jacqueline Woodson, winner of the Prinz Award and the Coretta Scott King award. And the list goes on. I’m ecstatic to have the opportunity to work with these amazing individuals, but also to continue my own training. The really cool part is that the college where I teach may actually pay for me to attend the mini residency programs as part of a commitment to continuing education! Of course, I’m going to attend whether they pay or not. Who would pass up that opportunity?
An additional piece fell into place with an invitation to attend an “advanced writers only” event at the end of this month. Utah Valley State College holds an annual children’s literature conference for teachers, librarians, writers, and illustrators. This year the featured editor is Alexandra Penfold, Senior Editor with Simon & Schuster. Following the conference there is an “invitation only” day with Alexandra. Only 18 participants will be present. We will each be given 15 minutes to present and critique a piece with her, so I’m very excited to take a new work with me. I just haven’t figured out which one yet.
On April 26th I’ll be participating in another Authorpalooza event at the West Jordan Barnes & Noble. This is the second event of it’s kind and will give me an opportunity to talk up my novel “The Deepest Blue” that comes out next year. This is being followed up with another Authorpalooza event at the Orem Barnes & Noble on May 10th. Then, on June 30, I’ve been invited to be a presenter at the grand opening of the Utah Valley State College library. This one is even a paid event! I’ll be doing a reading, signing, and a writing activity with young writers in junior high and high school.
Having worked so long and hard on my last book (it took nearly a year to complete), it is exciting to have not one, but two new novels in the works, each very different from the other but both very rewarding in their own ways. The first is a science fiction piece – well, speculative fiction really – which I’ve always loved reading and am eager to try my hand at now. It’s about a corrupt government program that trains kids to be assassins. The second is a contemporary Cinderella story based on my oldest daughter’s negative experiences with her step-sisters and step-mother. I’ve spent a lot of time talking with her about fictionalizing the story, but much of it is based on her actual experiences. Funny, sad, and according to an early critique, very believable and frustrating at the same time.
For now, I’m just enjoying the momentum of my writing life and feeling that things are back on track. A new book next year, many new opportunities in the coming months, and a lot opportunities to continue to improve as a writer: what’s not to like? I really love it when a plan comes together!