Sunday, April 25, 2010

Self-Doubt and Pep Talks

“And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” Sylvia Plath

Sometimes there’s a sneaky dark mass that sits in the corner as I write. It slithers to my desk and whispers discouragement in my ear. It climbs into the car with me for a ride to the library, or Starbucks, or wherever I write. Then it taps me on the shoulder like an incessant child.

“Excuse me. EXcuse me. EXCUSE me. Who do you think you are anyhow? You’re not up to par, you know. You have a lot to learn and a far, faaaaar way to go. You can’t really do this. That’s a really dumb idea. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Why don’t you just give up silly girl with silly dreams. Girl, puulease.”

This is the voice of self-doubt and it tries to sink its slimy talons into me when I write, or before I write, or even after I write. It’s mean. It’s ugly.

Okay, so I told self-doubt to bite me after I got pep talks from a few invaluable writer friends. They know what it’s like. They have to tell self-doubt to bite it, too. It comes with the writing territory. Hmmm. This could be one reason some writers get tipsy.

I called a writing friend and emailed another. I shared my fears, my doubts, my growing frustrations.

They cheered me on.

“I have a lot to learn myself. Glad to know I’m not the only one. You’ll get there. You just started this journey, don’t be impatient! My time will come when it’s the right time and so will yours. Keep your chin up.”

Thanks for the encouragement, my friends. I’m going to believe that now and get out the artillery. One moment please.

I’ve just channeled Lara Croft then kicked some self-doubt butt. He’s wounded and wrangled and tied up at the moment. I can be one tough chica—with a little help from my friends. I’m going to write now—before the sorry sucker squirms loose.

Call me if you need a pep talk. I’ll loan you a weapon.

Monday, April 19, 2010

One April Morning

Today marks the fifteen year anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing. This review is in remembrance of all who lost their lives that day, the survivors, their families and friends.

One April Morning
By Nancy Lamb and Children of Oklahoma City
Illustrated by Floyd Cooper

Reading level: Ages 6 and up
Hardcover: 1 pages
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers; 1st edition (April 1996)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 068814666X
ISBN-13: 978-0688146665


Author, Nancy Lamb was visiting her hometown of Oklahoma City when the bomb exploded. She interviewed fifty Oklahoma City children ranging from ages 3 to 14. Of those interviewed, none lost loved ones in the bombing. Lamb considered those children “too fragile.”

One April Morning was written in close collaboration with Oklahoma City therapists, clergy, and teachers. The book is filled with quotes from children deeply affected by the bombing. Each section describes a specific incident – from how life was for children in Oklahoma City before the bombing, to what happened during the bombing, and afterwards. The children share their feelings of shock and fear, guilt and anger, and their sense of hope and healing.

I was touched by the emotion-packed illustrations and the powerful words from children. “The first night it rained, it seemed like God was crying, too,” said Emily. “God doesn’t like people destroying His world,” said Addi.

Although I enjoyed the book, it was difficult for me to read. I grew up in Oklahoma and was in the city that day. My memories are still vivid fifteen years later.

On April 19, 1995, I was working on the third floor of an office building just six miles away from downtown Oklahoma City. I felt the bomb blast. Our building rumbled under our feet. The windows rattled.

That day, 168 of my fellow citizens lost their lives. A few of them were my friends. Fifteen years later, it is still awful and heartbreaking. Tears are welling in my eyes as I type this because the images and events of that day are forever etched in my mind. It's still hard to talk about.

I will never forget what happened on April 19, 1995 at 9:02 AM.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Shin-chi's Canoe

Shin-chi’s Canoe
Written by Nicola I. Campbell
Illustrated by Kim Lafave
Groundwood, 2008, ISBN: 9-780-88899-857-6

Inside the jacket flap: "The system of Indian residential schools was one of the great injustices perpetrated against the First Nations in Canada and the United States."

Part of the author's note: "When the Europeans came to the Americas they believed Native people were uncivilized. They pushed them off their traditional lands and onto reserves, or reservations. In the late 1800s governments decided to colonize Native people, forcing them to adapt to the European way of life. In both Canada and the US (as well as in Australia and New Zealand), laws were passed forcing Native children to be educated in church-run boarding schools. The purpose of these schools was to sever all ties the children had to their families, cultures and traditional territories."

Shin-chi’s Canoe is a finalist for the Governor General's Literacy Award from the Canadian Council for the Arts and the sequel to Nicola I. Campbell's award-winning book, Shi-shi-etko.

Although this book is fiction, Campbell interviewed her family members and elders who are survivors of residential schools. Kim Lafave used archival photos for the illustrations. The book shows the devastating experience for children and their families in the government-sponsored, church-run schools.


Shin-chi’s Canoe is the story of six-year-old, Shin-chi who is accompanying his big sister, Shi-shi-etko, to residential school for the first time.

This lovely, but heart wrenching tale shows the children sitting together with their family on the porch waiting for the cattle truck to pick them up. Shi-shi-etko tells her little brother things he must remember. He must only use their English names, and that they are not allowed to speak to one another. Then she gives him a gift from their father of a tiny canoe that represents everything Shin-chi must keep hidden. Shin-chi knows he won’t see his family again until the salmon return in the summer.

Upon their arrival, Shin-chi keeps his canoe hidden as the priests and sisters separate boys and girls. The school teaches the children how to pray as the Europeans do. The girls learn to cook, clean etc. while the boys learned to farm, do carpentry and blacksmithing.

Especially disturbing is that the children are given only burnt toast and porridge for breakfast while the teachers feast on steaming plates of bacon, eggs and potatoes from the farm. Thin soup is served to the children for lunch. For dinner it’s hard buns with stew. However, the teachers dine on meat, vegetables and corn for lunch and dinner. The children were never given enough food. The illustrations show the plump teachers through French doors feasting in hues of color while the children in the chow hall are in black and white.

The canoe keeps Shin-chi hopeful throughout the book until he and his sister are eventually reunited with their family in the summer.

This beautiful book teaches children about the resilience of Native children in an ugly era of social injustice. It reminded me of my own family’s extraordinary strength as some of my own ancestors are survivors of residential schools here in Oklahoma.

Monday, April 5, 2010

How To Find Time To Write

Most of us are crazy busy. Full-time jobs, housework, kids, sports, homework, family, friends, and other commitments keep us constantly on the go. Top that off with finding time to write, and that can be a challenging feat. It’s enough to make your head spin like Linda Blair’s in the move, The Exorcist.

If you have a passion to write, finding time is not impossible. Here’s how:

Get up early.

The crack of dawn has never been my thang. I’m not an early riser. I like to sleep in ‘till the very last possible moment. Then I reach for a big honkin’ mug of java or Earl Grey tea to jolt my brain cells awake. For many writers, the quiet of the morning proves productive. Set your alarm and give it a go you early bird, you. Make writing your first priority of the day.

Stay up late.

I’m more of a night owl kind of gal. I’d much rather stay up late to write than get up before the sun. To me, there’s just something so wrong about getting up while it’s still dark out. Late into the night can be an ideal time to write. The kids are in bed, the phone doesn’t ring. Hopefully the prose will sing.

Write while the kids are in school.

If you’re a stay-at-home work your tail off mom like me, you probably have some luxury of writing while your kiddos are in school. This is the time I write most. I lug my laptop to the library, Starbucks (writing can be lonely, and I need to be around people!), sit at my breakfast table or in my office to write. My creative juices seem to flow better when I mix up writing locations. School hours are a good time to write!

Write during your lunch hour.

One of my writing buddies has a full-time job and spends her lunch hour writing. Sometimes she goes to a park with her laptop in tow to get away from the office. Knowing you only have small amount of time to write can make you super productive. Oh, yeah.

Write on the fly.

If you’re on the run, keep a small notebook handy so you can write anywhere when ideas strike. One day, I made the mistake of not carrying any paper or pen in my purse and ended up using a Subway napkin and cobalt blue eyeliner pencil. Not pretty. You can also use your phone’s notebook feature. I’ve written many ideas on my iphone. Love that technology.

Happy Writing!