One week from now, I'll begin packing.
And don't worry, I'll announce contest finalists before then, and winners before I go! In fact, I extended the deadline so you can still submit until Monday. I hope you do, three entries is embarrassing and I will look so mean having to award two people and not the other. That's just not fair. So enter.
Anyway, back to packing for my trip - which I will begin next week.
Some people hate packing, but I love it. (It's unpacking I loathe). There's something about the preparation, getting ready, and the feeling that your life is about to get exciting when you fill a suitcase–even if you're filling it with toilet paper, mosquito repellent, and hand sanitizer.
For me, the idea of packing is akin to the idea of polishing up a manuscript and writing a query letter, then sliding it in a brown envelope and and sealing the clasp. As much as each process is a tedious task, it's also exhilarating, right?
And, another parallel between the submission process and the place to which I'll be traveling–The Gambia–is that the pace is pretty much the same: as slow as it gets. While the world whizzes by in 140-character tweets and a bazillion Facebook conversations every second, the Gambia's most famous phrase (in Wolof) is:
While I'm away, I won't have access to Internet for the vast majority of my trip. I'll be forced to slow down. In fact, my last blog post will be next week Friday, and it's a special farewell one, so I really hope you all will visit next week too to wish me goodbye while I go and build school libraries in The Gambia. And, thank you everyone who has made sure to pile a lot of last-minute submissions for me to dole out at Rate Your Story (which will also be closed to submissions while I'm away).
So you can see I'm inviting the spirit of Ndanka, Ndanka. I can't wait to hurry up and slow down.
So, here's my writing advice for this week.
Pick a time of day each day where you unplug. Slow down, write, don't check Facebook or Twitter. Yes, I said every day. And during that time, look up at the sun - or the moon - or the clouds - and know that somewhere, in a tiny village in West Africa, there's a writer who is being inspired by the very same sky (yes, me). I promise to send as much inspiration as I can, and I'll be taking a lot from that sky, which looks completely different in a place where there is no electricity at all. Breathtaking.
So look to the sky when you unplug and remember, the best stories aren't things that were invented by people. They were all there before we got here.
Now, in the spirit of packing - and the fast flurry we're all in to "get there," I've chosen a quiet, slow picture book. It's a reminder to us, as writers, to stop worrying about where we're going and enjoy exactly where are lives (or careers) are at. Enjoy the excited thoughts of your dreams coming true as a published writer, but also take joy in your life, here and now, as it is today. Publishers will be there tomorrow. So, even more often than not, remember to live here.
Then look at the sky and ask big, fat questions.
THERE by Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick
Author/Illustrator: Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press, 2009
Genre: Poetry, Picture Book, Art
Ages: 4-7 (Preschool through Grade 1)
Themes: Philosophy, Journey, Leaving Home, Questions, Dreams
First Page: When will I get there?
More: (From the McMillan site) A little girl ponders what the future holds, steadfast in her determination to find out for herself. Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick's gorgeous landscapes and the briefest of text speak to the power of imagination. Readers of all ages will find reassurance in this simple, beautiful book of ruminations about a lifelong journey toward tomorrow.
Why I chose it: It's about as slow and quiet as picture books get. And I think there are a lot of households that can do with a bit more slow and a bit more quiet. It's a great bedtime book, or an early morning book :) It's a snuggle book.
Resources: View this page for interiors of the book, View this page for more about Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick, and view this page called Philosophy for Kids for some nuggets and story starters to begin discussing big ideas with little people.
What is Perfect Picture Book Friday? Read more at Susanna Hill's Blog.
Comments Welcome: What is great about Here? What do you dream is There?