If you know me, you probably know my deep and abiding love for the most important holiday in February. It's a day that we anticipate year round at the Gingerbread House:
"Wake up, woodchuck chuckers! It's Groundhog Day!" The gingerbread boys don't share our enthusiasm, but they will someday. How can they not? BING!
Winter has always been a very long season in the places I've lived. Not perhaps Russian-long, but long enough to suspect that there is nothing under the two feet of crusty snow but more ice. Long enough to have forgotten what sunlight feels like. Long enough to think you're bound for the same destiny as the dinosaurs. Truly there have been some years when I felt Phil Connor's words shoot like an arrow into my soul: "It's going to be cold. It's going to be grey. And it's going to last you the rest of your life." Icy slush, cold toes, leaking boots, frozen windshield wipers, runny nose, fierce wind, and the shoveling. Always the shoveling. Spring, at times, seems a lifetime away.
And there, smack dab in the middle of winter, sits an absolutely ridiculous holiday. How can anyone not appreciate the value of an ROUS seeing his shadow?
A box. A large laminate box awaiting the arrival of sixteen day-old chicks. Fifteen of them are surplus stock and will be a mix of brown-egg layers. The final one is an Easter Egger, the mutt of the chicken world who has been bred to lay colored eggs. We are hopeful that more of these chickens will stick around than our last bunch.
And did I mention we're excited?
I'm prepping for School Library Journal's Battle of the Books. While I have loved following along in years past, this year is a bit special, as I know three of the contenders: Julie Berry (ALL THE TRUTH THAT'S IN ME), Rita Williams-Garcia (PS BE ELEVEN), and Kathi Appelt (THE TRUE BLUE SCOUTS OF SUGAR MAN SWAMP).
I've known Julie since I was thirteen. She's one of my dearest friends, and I'm so thrilled that her work is being recognized. When Julie first began writing ALL THE TRUTH, she shared the first ten pages of it with me in a hotel room at a conference in Nashua years ago. I was immediately engaged by Judith's voice (or lack thereof), and wanted nothing more than for her to hurry and finish writing it, so I could find out what happened. I hope her novel receives some serious love during the BoB.
Rita is faculty at my alma mater, Vermont College of Fine Arts. Though I never got to work with Rita, at least I got to dance with her. The woman can dance. She's a fine writer, too. :) You can't help but fall in love with Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern, just like you can't help but fall in love with Rita.
Kathi was my first advisor at Vermont College. When I read her first novel, The Underneath, I truly wanted to throw in the towel and take up chopping onions for a living. It was just so good. She is full of wisdom and compassion and graciousness and heart. And she always says to write like your fingers are on fire. She's been a true mentor to me, and her words always make my heart sing.
This year, I'm trying to read all of the books so I can have an educated opinion. I still have ten books to go!
The other night, I lay wide awake, as is often the case. Sleep does not come easy for me, and many nights find me comfortable under the down, but very awake. I lay there with thoughts firing like spark plugs. I was tired, and knew that I needed more sleep, and yet sleep simply would not come.
I tried to shut down my thoughts, tried to turn out the light, so to speak. As I was forcibly trying to shove my thoughts away, squash them down, fold them up into a compact square, make them leave, I realized I just needed to let them go. I needed to let the thoughts float up into the air like bubbles, or drift away on ripples. Let go.
It's not easy to mentally let go of things, just as it's not easy to physically let go of things. One woman I know hangs onto her possessions like they're a life raft in a hurricane. The gingerbread boy often races back to me when the bus is turning the corner, just to give me one more hug. I have a six-month's worth pile of magazines that I should just toss, but instead they sit gathering dust for that day when I'll get around to reading them. I suspect that day will never come.
And letting go of your manuscript?
I have released bits and pieces of two separate manuscripts this past month. Part of me wishes I had not been so hasty. The other part knows that sometimes, you just have to jump.