Friday, February 3, 2012

Focus Friday: Packing (and Perfect Picture Books)

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: 

Ndanka, Ndanka.

Slowly, Slowly.

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.

Just Like:
THERE by Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick

Title:  There
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?


patientdreamer said...

Oh my! Miranda, you are making me think of my time (few years ago)on a Orangutan Reserve in Sumatra where we had a hole in the ground for you-know-what, washed in the river and one wall was made of newspaper... and my trip to Laos last year. Oh I soooo want to go,I love the packing stage to, will be looking to the sky and thinking of you. Have fun!
What a lovely book, it looks peaceful to with such sweet pictures. Thanks for sharing.

Unknown said...

This one I haven't heard of yet. I those snuggle books, since I still have two little snugglers still. Thanks for the review, and I hope you enjoy your trip!!

Penny Parker Klostermann said...

I want to read this book. Your reveiw convinced me. I love what you said...
" And I think there are a lot of households that can do with a bit more slow and a bit more quiet."
I totally agree.

Penny Parker Klostermann said...

Eeekkkk! What kind of writer am I????I misspelled review.

Renee LaTulippe said...

Oh, I love love love packing...the anticipation of new vistas, new people, new experiences. What a wonderful trip you have before you. Wish I were there!

And THERE seems like a most beautiful place to be.

Joanna said...

Your sharing and the cover of this book make me want to sling my backpack over my shoulders and head off again!

Ndanka! Ndanka!

Beth Stilborn said...

Your words about unplugging and being aware and reveling in the NOW are so good, Miranda. Thank you.

This book sounds lovely. Thank you for sharing it today!

Patricia T. said...

Just the very cover draws me into this book. I can tell it's quiet and about a journey. My kind of book for kids. Will definitely have to find this one. It's beautiful and simple. It feels like it focuses on the present moment -- am I right?

Anonymous said...

The book sounds lovely. Great intro to the book.
Have a great time in Gambia, I hope it is a wonderful experience for you.

Also be Safe.
Are you going to be working the entire time? If you get a chance try to do a safari. You will enjoy the slow pace of them and just being out in nature.

Darshana said...

oops that last comment (anonymous) was from me.
just a slip on the keyboard.

Damon Dean said...

Ndanka, Ndanka...critical advice for me. Thanks for the reminder that we can capture those wonderful quiet moments in our writing.
I'll be looking for "There" somewhere soon. said...

Have a wonderful time, peace and quiest sound sublime. I'll have to read that pb for my peace and quiet. It sounds lovely.

msdiamondhill said...

i love the picture book cover. it thrills me to read it.
And I also love travelling and packing. Alas! I have done any such travelling to pack something.
And I always watch the nature around me, almost everyday. so you'll find me in the wind, rain, clouds, sun, sky oh everything.
have fun.

Miranda Paul said...

Thanks for commenting, everyone! Sorry I didn't get a chance to respond,but I was having fun doing a school visit all day! The kids were great :)

Stacy S. Jensen said...

This makes me want to pack a bag and join you. Instead, we'll be Ndanka, Nadank here. Good luck.

Erik This Kid Reviews Books said...

The cover illustration is great!

Heather said...

The cover is beautiful and I like the idea of a slow and quiet book. Nice choice.

Vivian Kirkfield said...

Thank you so much, Miranda. In the midst of your planning and packing, you took the time to give us advice and direction. Unplug...unwind...look at the sky...and write. :)
I do appreciate it...I tend to get caught up in the reading/commenting/answering the comments blog thing..and, although it is obviously an important task (I wouldn't have visited your blog and met you), it is so important to step back and write...for children, that is.
Best of luck on your sounds amazing!
And thank you for a wonderful review of another must-read, must-get-for-my-library book!

Kirsten Larson said...

Miranda, I enjoyed your interview with Diane. My husband lived in the Gambia (and Nigeria) with his family going up, and I'd love to introduce our boys to some of the world before they get there in person. You have an amazing body of work. Safe travels

Susanna Leonard Hill said...

I loe the idea of slowly, slowly! It's so hard to manage these days! Have a great and inspiring trip - such a wonderful thing you are doing! Can't wait to hear about it when you get back. I'm like you - love the packing, hate the unpacking (bags have been known to sit for days unpacked on my bedroom floor! So anticlimactic!) and it is like sending off a ms - so full of hope! I love your book choice - although it seems like fewer and fewer of these quiet books get published, I think they're wonderful, just right for bedtime, and important in helping out children to take things slowly, slowly in a world where even childhood seems to be getting rushed. Thanks for this wonderful choice - it looks absolutely beautiful - and I'm going to have to find it and read it ASAP! :)

Patricia said...

What a sweet book! I really like the cover.

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