I wrote the last time right before Thanksgiving. Right after I got a contract for my third picture book, Jonathan James and The Whatif Monster. Pretty much right after that it was a whirlwind of turkey, mashed potatoes, a week of school visits in Louisiana, Christmas in the mountains then about 30 days of non-stop painting to meet the January 28 deadline for the art. I holed up in my studio with fresh paper, paint and brushes and pretty much didn’t leave for a month. It was heaven, as any other artist will attest.
As I painted, I listened to Salem’s Lot by Stephen King on audiobooks, then watched a ridiculous amount of true crime drama on Netflix. I don’t know why I watch those shows, especially doing what I do for a living. I admit it fascinates me though. I am always stunned there is such evil in the world when I see so much good and experience amazing people and children all the time. By watching so many though, you do see the pattern that most evil in a person seems to start because a child was abused, neglected or forgotten. And so when I do my school visits, when a child asks a question or wants to tell me the name of their pet, I focus on them with everything I have in me, look them directly in the eye and listen as if it is the most important thing I have ever heard. Because at that moment, to that child, it is. We all need to feel listened to and important. Maybe if we all did that with each other more, the evil would go away. Or at least lessen.
Anyway, this is not a post about evil, don’t worry. What next? I got the book done and sent off for review then did 3 days of school visits in Kentucky and Ohio. What a way to break my month-long studio painting! Oh the children, they light me up from the inside out. I hope with all my heart I can do this until I die peacefully in my sleep at 94. With all my faculties working. With a down comforter. And a big screen tv to watch at night. For all that true crime shows you know. 😉
My book comes out this summer and I already have 3 weeks of visits for the fall confirmed and have a 4th week that is about to be. I have many weeks for this spring booked and boy are those Ohio people AMAZING, because I am booked for 2 weeks solid up there! LOVE. THEM.
I am already thinking of how to change up my presentation for my new book so that I can go back to schools I have already been to so the kids can see something new. Oh boy, is that going to be fun. NEW, BIG, GIANT, PAINTINGS! I will never do a presentation without those. When I turn those around it is my Bon Jovi Rock Star moment. And I won’t lie, I bask in it. BASK. I am adored among short people. And it is AWESOME. Although when I get home and I am just ‘Mom’ again and no one is ‘ooohing’ and ‘ahhing’ over me, it is kind of a let down. I am trying to teach the kids to bow down, or at least salute or something, but that seems a no-go. But they are very willing to flash me an eye-roll. And then they just want to know what is for dinner. Bah.
So something keeps coming up when I do these school visits. A question. By boys and girls. Especially the second and third graders. “Are you going to write a chapter book?” “Will you please write a chapter book?” “Miss. Michelle, can you please write a chapter book for me?” And my heart? It melts. If these kids asked me to water ski across the Atlantic I would do it. Or at least try. Or at least take lessons on Lake Lanier.
I got asked that question during my very first visit last May. And it has been stuck in my head ever since. I want to. But I write in rhymes for the most part. I want to. But I write 300 words or less to tell a story. I want to, but I am not a novelist.
But they asked me to. Over and over.
But you know what? Three years ago I was not a picture book author and illustrator either. And you know what else? The idea for a middle grade chapter book has finally come to me in my cluttered up brain. It is a story that happened to me when I was in fifth grade. When I sat next to Maureen Byrnes and it was the single most humiliating moment of my life*. I thought I would die. I was sure of it. SURE. OF. IT. And that? Would make a great book. My kids LOVE the story. That one and the one about how Chris Cicchini walked home at lunchtime recess and was brought back an hour later by a Truant Officer to Mr. Beecham’s class. Dude. CRAZY times. My memory of elementary school is strangely crystal clear while something just ten years ago I am all, “That did NOT happen. What are you TALKING ABOUT??”
So this morning I sat down and wrote the first two paragraphs and am going to outline the book. I have no idea if it will happen, but I am at least going to try because the kids have asked me to. I hope I can at least stand up on the skis, but I have the rest of my life to practice, so I will give it a go.
Full Inspirational Disclaimer: I went to my accountant yesterday and she helped me set up Quickbooks. I have to go back and enter in all my work receipts, payments, expenses, sales, sales taxes etc. I swear I almost started crying in her office at the thought of it. I have to get it done in the next week or so, so I can file my business taxes by March 15. So naturally I am inspired to both paint a new painting that has popped into my head and write a novel. A NOVEL. Procrastinate much? Someone from my high school days posted a comment on my Facebook when I wrote about painting as a means to avoid paperwork-y stuff: “Procrastination, inspiring Americans since the real tea party.” So true. But what if I DO get a novel out of it? I will make the kiddos so happy! Even if my taxes are late.
Whatever works, right? 😉
*My most humiliating moment is actually a toss up between this event in 5th grade and the seventh grade dance where Brendan Schubel chose my best friend to slow dance with when Crazy For You by Madonna came on. Ugh. Still cringe when I think about it. Poor Brendan, whenever that song comes on the radio I think of him and cringe. But to be fair, the next year at the 8th grade dance he did slow dance with me. I have pictures to prove it. And I would show you, but…my hair. Oy. That is another novel of humiliation right there.