Camp NanoWriMo

CampNanoWriMo | campnanowrimo-badge | www.patriciabaileyauthor.comIt’s April – long past time for me to put pen to paper and fingers to keyboard and get serious about revising my work in progress. I’ve let it sit. I’ve had a friend read a good chunk of it and offer feedback. I’ve studied story and plot, opening scenes and endings. I’ve taken a ton of notes. And I’ve had a few hopeful moments where it has seemed that there is a story in there worth resurrecting.

And I’m not one to discount hopeful moments.
All of this is to say that I should be ready. Ready to rework and tighten, toss and rewrite.

Maybe I am.

April first is the start of Camp Nanowrimo, a 30 day writing challenge from the folks who bring us writers Nanowrimo – only this time with more flexibility. Do what you want for 30 days and track it by word count, time, lines, pages – whatever works for you.

The point is to the use the community energy and the public accountability to get you moving. To get you writing. Or, as in my case, revising.

And it works. I know it works because I’ve written two full novels (one of which became my debut) by participating in Nanowrimo’s 30 day challenge.

Still, I’m not sure if I want to do this. I used to be really great at sticking to things under all kinds of circumstances. I used to be great at finishing what I’ve started. But lately, I’ve been really bad at it. So bad that the thought of trying and failing feels scary. Way scary. You’ll never ever be able to do this scary.

I really don’t want one more example of how my normally great ability to persevere has waned in the last year or so. But I also kind of want to test it. To challenge it. To see if I can build it back up – like a misused and injured muscle.

Which is a drawn-out way to say that I guess I’m going to try it. Why not? April is all about resurrection and rebirth after all. And maybe Camp Nanowrimo will be just the thing to bring this novel to life. I fully intend to give it my best try.

Wish me luck. I’ll let you know how it went at the end of the month.

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Renewal

Renewal | Crocus | www.patriciabaileyauthor.com

“That is one good thing about this world…there are always sure to be more springs.”
L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Avonlea

Some years, L.M. Montgomery’s truth is hard to believe. Some years, it feels like winter will never end, the sun will never shine, and the books will never be finished.

I started every day this month standing on my front porch, searching my flower bed for the promise of Spring – the purple crocus I planted that never fails to bring me my first glimmer of hope that the winter will end, the sun will shine, and life will be renewed.

This year that search took on a different quality – a desperate quality – as if not just Spring, but everything – me, my writing, my career, all of it – depended on a glimpse of purple blossoms in a muddy, snow-lined patch of dirt.

I checked every day, and every day, the flower bed was empty.

Until yesterday. Yesterday, I stopped looking in the usual place, right next to the porch, and let my eyes wander the entire length of the front flower bed. And there it was. Not the one tiny crocus I was expecting, but two big plants – one lavender, one purple, both full and open and smiling in the sun.

Renewal | Crocus 2 | www.patriciabaileyauthor.com

Spring had arrived – just not in the exact place I had expected.

I’m hoping I will be able to say the same for myself – and for my writing.

Today, I launch into revising a novel that has taken me too long to write. A novel that has struggled to live underground as I wandered through a two-year long winter of my own. I know it won’t be the same book I expected it to be when I jotted the baby beginnings of the idea on an index card, but that’s okay.

It will be something different. Something fresh. Something new – springing out of all that those two years have taught.

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Mary Oliver

Mary Oliver | Sunflower| www.patriciabaileyauthor.com

I didn’t realize how much I have been leaning on Mary Oliver and her work the last two years until I read that she had died. The news struck me – the way hearing an old friend has died always does – swift and hard. A front kick to the chest.

I did what we all do when we hear of of a death – I felt sad. For her, sure. For the people who knew and loved her, of course. But also, selfishly, for me. Because I wanted more. More of her thoughts. More of her poems. More of, well, all of it. All that she’s learned. All that she’s seen. All that she’s willing to share.

What I really wanted was another book that I could read in the early morning hours before the cats and the husband and the sun showed up. Another book to keep me company and to remind me to keep living my “one wild and precious life” as best as I can.

Isn’t that what we all want?

Someone close to me has been reckoning with immortality lately and asked me my advice. As if I have any. I’m not religious. Not philosophical. Not particularly deep or wise or even all that opinionated. But I offered what I could. I offered poetry. “Poets seem to be closer to it than the rest of us,” I said. And the poet I was most thinking about when I offered this “cure” was Mary Oliver.

She’s helped me better see a world I recognize, and to appreciate what I love about it – the land, the animals, the quiet, the joy, and the heartbreak. I thought that she might help him. I hope that she does.

In her piece in The New Yorker, Stephanie Burt writes:  “Oliver’s decades of litanies and rediscoveries provided so many readers with what Kenneth Burke called “equipment for living,” tools to fight gloom, to open the front door, to lead wilder or more precious lives.”

I know she did this for me.

Thank you for the tools, Mary, and the message. You will be missed.

MESSENGER

My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird —
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,

which is mostly standing still and learning to be
astonished.
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all ingredients are here,

which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
that we live forever.

—Mary Oliver

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Bringing in 2019

Bringing in 2019 | leave-the-dishes | www.patriciabaileyauthor.comIt’s here. 2019. Another ride around the sun and another trip through our crisp, clean new planners. A bright and shiny new year full of new chances, new hope.

I spent the last moments of 2018 finishing the novel that refused to be. It was rough. Ugly. A Hail Mary effort to have something to show for a year that was full of stress and fear and a pressing sense of deep unease. And, it worked. Kind of. Just as the neighborhood erupted in celebratory fireworks, I wrote the last words of a draft I honestly did not think I would ever finish. Then I went to bed, exhausted by the work and the doubt, yet exhilarated by the knowledge that what I thought was going to work won’t because now I understood why. Now I can do something about it. I have hope – maybe only a smidge, but hope just the same. It’s a feeling I haven’t had in quite a while.

I allowed 2019 to ease in without a lot of fanfare, hoopla, resolutions, or even my traditional goal-setting session. I spent the first week of 2019 resting. I read. I fiddled with end of the year tasks. I ran errands, rediscovered old TV shows, watched the snow fall, and even worked out a bit. And I didn’t set a single goal or make a single plan.

I already know what I want do and what I want to accomplish. The list hasn’t changed. But one thing I’ve learned in the last year and a half is something the poet Robert Burns knew long ago –  that“The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft a-gley.”  I’ve also learned that so many of my goals rely heavily on things outside of my control. So, instead of making goals, I listed what mattered to me in the world. The reasons I sit at my keyboard every day. The things I’m trying to do with my writing. The actions that make me feel like I’m on the right path.

I hope to remember what matters to me this year and to shape my days accordingly. To ease-up, on myself, on my desires, on my day-to-day worries, and even on those around me.

A friend reminded me of a poem this week. One that lives on my refrigerator as a reminder of a brave and unconventional way to be in the world. I’m moving the poem from my refrigerator to my desk this week. I’m moving my energy from desperation to ease.
And, I’m taking Louise Erdrich’s wonderful advice to “Leave the dishes.”

Maybe you will too.

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Goals and Possibilities

Some days it’s easy to forget how far you’ve come. We humans have a tendency to look ahead. To focus on the next goal. The next project. The next big dream. And I think this time of year dials that urge up. My email box is filled with newsletters, webinars, and links to YouTube videos all promising to help me meet my 2019 goals. Planning. Vision Boarding. Goal Setting. There’s nothing wrong with any of it, but this year, I’m just not feeling it. Maybe it’s because all of my big goals for 2018 took a backseat to trying to keep my little family healthy and myself sane. Maybe it’s because I am finally starting to realize that that old quote about making god laugh has a little bit of truth to it.

But even with all the hard stuff this year, good came. KIT won awards. I made new friends. I visited a new place, and took some beautiful walks in some old ones. I even wrote some new words. Not a whole novel, yet, but most of one, and with some focus, a little bit of grace, and a whole lot of luck I could still finish it this year. (Here’s me looking forward again).

When I look at it all with adult-me eyes, it doesn’t feel like much. But, luckily, I spend a lot of my time looking at the world through the eyes of  a child, or at least trying to. And kid-me would not believe the year I’ve had. She wouldn’t have even imagined it was possible.

Earlier today I fell down a rabbit hole of research. (Well, part research, part avoiding the hard and scary work of putting words on the page). I was looking up old board games my characters could play on a rainy day. I was trying to remember which ones I had – the good ones and the bad – and this one came to the top of the list.

What Shall I Be Game | www.patriciabaileyauthor.com
I remember picking this game up at a yard sale. It was old-timey even then, but I grew up in a small town out west. Everything came a few years/decades late there. Music. Movies. Mocha lattes. And, yes, even possibilities. And this is nothing if not a game of possibilities. Six to be exact. Ballerina. Actress. Flight Attendant. Teacher. Model. Nurse. Those were the career choices kid-me was given in the the late 70’s/early 80’s.

The only one I thought was remotely possible was teacher. So that’s what I became. It was also the only job other than nurse, bank teller, house cleaner, store clerk, beautician, and secretary I had ever seen a real-life woman hold.

I have no idea if this game influenced my decision in any way. Maybe those awful pink and orange cards that said you were too overweight or too bad at makeup to be an actress or a flight attendant had a impact. Maybe not. It wasn’t very fun to play, so I didn’t spend that much time with it, but you never know what’s going to stick to you. I do know that it wasn’t until I was in my late 30’s that the idea that I could be a real-life writer seemed possible. That it was even an option.

Which takes me back to kid-me who would be looking back at my year with wide-eyed amazement. I did all that, and I did it with my hair in a ponytail and no makeup? (Too things those awful little pink hearts and round orange cards deemed unworthy for most careers). Who would have imagined it?

Not me.

But here I am. Even on the hard days, the no words days, the no hope days, I’m here, doing a job that didn’t even seem possible. Living a life I never even imagined.

And even on those days, if I take the time to stop looking forward, I can see that it’s pretty awesome.

(If you’d like to read a fun article about the game mentioned above, there’s one here).

KIT’s Winning Awards!

THE TRAGICALLY TRUE ADVENTURES OF KIT DONOVAN has had an pretty amazing run of luck these past couple of months. Truth be told, I’m still amazed that people are actually reading something I wrote. The fact that they are reading and liking it still feels pretty surreal to me. The fact that they want to give it an award is beyond shocking and completely humbling.

As you know, THE TRAGICALLY TRUE ADVENTURES OF KIT DONOVAN won an Oregon Book Award in May – an event that still makes me giddy when I think about and resulted in my book being on the shelf at Powell’s with one of those nifty little cards underneath.

KIT at Powells | www.patriciabaileyauthor.com

But somehow the magic didn’t stop there. In the last couple of months, KIT has ended up on three other winner lists:

THE TRAGICWilla Award | www.patriciabaileyauthor.comALLY TRUE ADVENTURES OF KIT DONOVAN is the Winner of the 2018 WILLA Literary Award Winner in Children’s/Young Adult Fiction & Nonfiction – an award given by Women Writing the West to recognize “outstanding literature featuring women’s stories set in the west.” I’ve been an avid reader of western literature for as long as I can remember – and as I child I actively sought out stories about girls and women in the west; stories that proved difficult to find. After a childhood of making up “girl in the west” stories in my head, it was a joy to get one published. It’s a real honor to be considered an award-winning writer of one, too.

osba | www.patriciabaileyauthor.com
KIT is also the winner of the Oregon Council of Teachers of English’s Oregon Spirit Book Award. The award is “given yearly to the author of a distinguished contribution to children’s literature or young adult literature that engages and encourages readers’ imagination, discovery, and understanding, reflecting the spirit and values held by Oregonians.” If you know me, you know I’ve spent 15 plus years as an Oregon English teacher. You also know that encouraging kids to read and discuss books that interest and inspire them is high on my list of things that matter in the world. To be chosen for this award by a group of people I admire – and people I know to be a pretty tough audience 🙂 – is simply amazing.

WRMA | www.patriciabaileyauthor.comFinally, KIT has been chosen as a finalist for The Will Rogers Medallion Award. The WRMA “recognizes excellence in Western literature and media.” I’m so honored to be included among so many great Western writers. The Award Ceremony is in Fort Worth, TX in October, and I can’t wait to see how it all turns out.

I’m so happy KIT seems to be finding her place in the world. You never know what all those years of writing and rewriting, hoping and despairing will amount to. You don’t know if a book will ever get published, or, if it does, if it will ever be read, or even liked, let alone loved. It’s a real joy to see that KIT’s story has resonated with people, that a few of them may have even loved it, and that someone might be carrying KIT around in their head as they walk to school or go shopping or just sit in class daydreaming – the way I did (and still do) with the books and characters I love.

Thank you all for your support over the last year and a half. It means the world to me.

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I Wrote a Picture Book!!

i-wrote-a-picture-book | www.patriciabaileyauthor.comAbout two months ago I had a flash of an idea. One of those flashes that come unbidden and out of nowhere and demand you pay attention to them. So I paid attention because I learned long ago that these flashes are gifts – from the universe or the muse or just some part of the unconscious that’s particularly tuned in at that moment – I really don’t know. But I do know that they always lead somewhere interesting. This time the flash led me to do something I never thought I’d do:  I wrote a picture book!

I never had any plans to write a picture book. It looked hard. Too hard. I’ve read picture books. They are amazing. And impossible. Tell an entire story in 500 words or less and make it smart and funny, poignant and heartfelt, rich and beautiful. The best ones do all this and more.

Making Picture Book Magic | I wrote a picture book | www.patriciabaileyauthor.com

But I had an idea, so when my friend Janet told me about Making Picture Book Magic and offered to retake the course with me, I signed up. Then I dove in with both feet, dedicating time every day to write my picture book. And thanks to Susanna’s awesome lessons, boosts of support from my classmates, and the added gift of Janet’s eagle-eye critiquing skills, I did it! I wrote a picture book. A complete one. And it might even be kind of funny. Maybe. But it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that I honored the flash and took a chance and created something brand new. I played with ideas and tinkered with words and had a blast just writing – with no expectations beyond the simple act of creating something.

It was awesome! So awesome, I decided to lean all the way and challenge myself to write a picture book each month as part of the 12×12 Challenge.
I’m pretty sure it will be difficult and frustrating and exciting and loads of fun. All the best adventures are.

12-x-12-picture book challenge | I wrote a picture book | www.patriciabaileyauthor.com

I’m excited to be starting 2018 with a completed picture book manuscript, a really fun middle grade work in progress, and a plan. It’s the end of January, what are you excited about?

PB | www.patriciabaileyauthor.com

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Happy New Year!

Happy New Year | 2018 | www.patriciabaileyauthor.com

2017 was a bit of a roller coaster year for many of us. Great highs Terrifying dips. And far too many unexpected turns. Between the thrill of seeing my book published and out in the world and the fear of seeing my husband sick and struggling, I’m feeling a little worn out and tossed around by 2017 –  and more than happy to usher in a bright and shiny new year.

My goals for 2018 are pretty simple:

  • Focus on the joy. Do  more of what I love with the people that I love.
  • Finish Book 2 – the project that’s been a casualty of life stress for far too long.
  • Write a picture book (or two or three).
  • Get a solid draft of a new mg historical novel.
  • Find the quiet. Take more walks in the woods and on the beach.

Not a small list, for sure, and not a particularly easy one. But a do-able one. And a necessary one. I feel the need for deep focus in the months ahead.The kind of deep focus that sometimes seems difficult in our busy lives full of screen time and instant updates.

Which is why I think I’ll start the new year using May Sarton’s poetic advice as a guide – and shove off the clutter and find my way “…back to still water.”

New Year Resolve

The time has come
To stop allowing the clutter
To clutter my mind
Like dirty snow,
Shove it off and find
Clear time, clear water.

Time for a change,
Let silence in like a cat
Who has sat at my door
Neither wild nor strange
Hoping for food from my store
And shivering on the mat.

Let silence in.
She will rarely speak or mew,
She will sleep on my bed
And all I have ever been
Either false or true
Will live again in my head.

For it is now or not
As old age silts the stream,
To shove away the clutter,
To untie every knot,
To take the time to dream,
To come back to still water.

~ May Sarton, “New Year Resolve” from Collected Poems, 1930-1993

My wish for you is that you take the time to dream in the year ahead; find time for the quiet moments that fill you up and make you whole; take the time to rediscover yourself.

May 2018 be overflowing with love and happiness.

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A Christmas Thank You

Happy Holidays | www.patriciabaileyauthor.comIt’s been a big year here at my house. Lots of truly wonderful things happened – my first novel was published; I made a bunch of new friends; and I got to travel to some pretty cool places. And lots of not-so- wonderful things happened, too – my husband got terribly sick in March and we spent a whole  lot of time worrying and doctoring and trying to do life and work and art in the midst of chaos and doubt. People smarter than I say that the universe likes balance – and 2017 may have convinced me of this truth.

One of the things I know is that everything always look a little better when you take the time to count your blessings. And even in a hard year – when taking a moment to be grateful can sometimes seem like another thing on the to-do list – there are many things to be grateful for. And one of the things on my blessings list is you. So, I want to give you all a big Christmas Thank You. Thank you for being here for me this year – for showing up at book events, for talking with me over coffee and on Facebook and on Twitter, for cheering for all the good that’s happened and for supporting me through the bad. You are the best. <3

Sending you all much love and wishing you happiness in health in 2018.

Patricia Bailey | www.patriciabaileyauthor.com

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So How Long Did It Take?

Last month I was asked to write an article that would fit in The Author’s Journey column of the Oregon SCBWI’s regional newsletter.

I was honored – and scared – which turns out to be a combination of emotions that actually gets work out of me.

I wrote the following piece in a whir – which may not seem like a big deal to most of you, but I’ve been pretty blocked writing-wise for quite some time. Getting words on a page – any words – felt like a freaking miracle to me.
The fact that the words made sense and seemed to resonate with the readers who took the time to email me was staggering.

And revisiting the serendipitous magic that resulted in a published book was healing for me. It’s always good to remember that dreams come true through a mix of hard work, aligned timing, and simple luck – and you’re only in control of one of these.

I hope you enjoy the article.

The Tragically True Adventure of Kit Dononvan | Patricia Bailey | www.patriciabaileyauthor.comSo How Long Did it Take

There’s one question every author gets asked – whether they’re being interviewed or speaking on a conference panel – “How long did it take you to get published?”.

It’s a good question. A valid question. We’re writers, after all, and who better to give us a clue about the path to publication than someone who found a way through the wilderness and got a book on the bookstore shelf.

The only problem is that there are as many paths to that shelf as there are writers. Everyone’s journey is a little bit different. But one thing is true for all of us, and that’s the answer I usually give.

It’s taken my entire life – from birth to right now – to get published.

It’s taken every sentence I’ve scribbled since I learned to hold a pencil. Every book I’ve read. Every teacher who said, “I don’t understand what you mean here,” or “Tell me more about this.”

It’s taken every second I’ve spent daydreaming. Every time I’ve asked “I wonder?” Every hour I’ve passed following my curiosity.

It’s taken years of classes and conferences, craft books and critique partners.

Cycles of hope and doubt, failure and triumph.

It took forever.

And then, suddenly, it took no time and all.

I signed up for a manuscript critique at the Oregon SBWI conference in May of 2015 and had the incredible luck of meeting an agent who loved my book and my writing. I signed with her in June, and the novel was on submission in September. By March 2016 we had a publisher, and by the end of April 2017 my book was on the shelf at Barnes and Noble.

Which means I could say that my path to publication took two years. Sounds awesome, doesn’t it?

But we all know that’s not quite true. We’re all writers here after all. So maybe a better question to ask is: “Was it worth it?”

And to that question, my answer is an easy one.

Absolutely. Every minute of it.

(Originally published in Oregon SCBWI Newsworthy November-December 2017)

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