Just five more days until you can get to know Willis Wilbur. I don’t think I’ve ever been this excited to have readers meet one of characters. He’s spunky and naive, smart and tenacious. In short, Willis is 100% gumption. Here’s a fun review from School Library Journal…
And here’s a quick UNBOXING video! Lots of publishers have moved to digital ARCs (advanced reader copies), so this is the first time I got to see and hold Willis Wilbur Wows the World in print.
For the last few years, I’ve tried to figure out the “next step in my career.” I hate this term, yet here I am using it. I love love love writing books. But publishing is a tricky biz–with an income that is passable at best and laughable at… well, tax season. It’s a constant hustle that involves tons of side jobs beyond the actual writing, which in and of itself is a glorious beast. I’ve thought about returning to the classroom (and still considering) but there are just so many kids in my house right now. Then one day in March: THERE WERE SO MANY KIDS IN MY HOUSE. Like all the time. That first week of quarantine had me feeling overwhelmed and inadequate. I searched for resources that allowed me to educate/entertain my kids and give me some time to do All The Things That I Still Needed to Do, Dang You Covid!
So I built a Distance Learning website. (yes, my solution was to give myself more work. I’m not Type A, you are). I called my favorite co-creator and writing partner, Robin Mellom, who also teaches 8th grade language arts at the California Virtual Academy. We saw this unique opportunity to build something for parents like me, teachers like Robin, kids like our kids. A resource that allows everyone in front of a screen (which is a lot of everyones) to watch something that teaches how to CREATE vs consume. And that’s what The Pages Between Us Project is: a distance learning resource that teaches your kid and their buddy (co-creator) how to write a story together.
We’ve launched with the first few videos with more releasing every few weeks. There’s also a kid lit calendar of whatever virtual author visits we can find (authors/educators: feel free to ad your next event), writing dares, lesson ideas… the list goes on. This summer, we’re creating an in-depth, personalized advanced writing course for kids grades 3-8. Right now, all the content is Free. So come on over and find some educational fun for your kids during these last few weeks of school, summer and beyond. www.thepagesbetweenus.com
I made a road trip detour in Virginia City to see the second most haunted building in Nevada, the Old Washoe Club (although the first most haunted is not presently accessible to visitors, so really I saw the first most haunted & accessible building in Nevada). It was probably the seventh, nah eighth most haunted place I’ve experienced, which was sorta off-brand considering the whole Ghost Town! pitch. Anyway, the real wonder happened on the outskirts of town, with this row of knick-knacky parking spots next to a mine with zero public access. The whole set up made no sense.
And then there was the TARDIS.
I tried to explain the wonder and curiosity of it all to my nine-year-old, but she’s never known the Doctor and really wanted to stop at the barrel of candy shop. Blessedly, the inevitable conversation swirled around this question: “If you could travel in a Tardis, why would you go?”
Why would you elect to take a pic next to the thing without even bothering to open the door? Why does another time or place warrant your attention?
My daughter and I agreed we wouldn’t. Go. We liked the now that we experienced that day, with a bag of candy and miles and miles to chat. But I keep thinking about that Tardis. About the reason WHY we need to get away, especially kids. How sometimes that travel happens in a story, even if it’s just a flash, a blip, a breath. And that’s the Why I’m taking to the page today, as I try to sort through the nonsense and injustice of the world. We need to provide emotional TARDIS for kids, or at the very least trap doors.
On Friday night, over a salmon dinner, I told my dad I’ve been accepted into the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults. A tear rolled down Dad’s cheek, which happens a lot because his Bell’s Palsy causes rebellious tear ducts. When more tears came, I realized this was a legit cry, which is weird because I didn’t think he’d consider graduate school a big deal. Three of my siblings have pursued post-secondary degrees (my brother, Brett, has more degrees than I have kids). And I’m going to school for a job that I sorta already have.
Then he said he’s beyond proud that his daughter is furthering her education, and that my Great-Grandma Dotson would be so proud too. Grandma Dotson was the daughter of a second polygamist wife. Her father was decades older than her mother, and the first wife wasn’t too keen on husband sharing, especially with a young bride. As a result, Grandma Dotson had a rough childhood, and eventually left home at the age of 12 to attend a girl’s boarding school in Beaver, UT. She went on to have 9 kids, only 3 of which survived into adulthood. She valued education, especially for women, and told her grandkids to learn and learn and learn. Her son, my grandpa, went on to do a bunch of jobs, largely in education, and married a woman who worked hard for her degree and worked hard in general. Of course, I’d never heard this story (and I’m sure my angel/ghost great grandma is plenty proud already, what with my female Harris cousins at med school or earning teacher of the year or graduating from Columbia). And there, sitting next to me was my mom, a teacher, the daughter of an immigrant garbage man, the first college graduate in her family. Wow. My lady ancestors have bestowed upon me a fierce legacy.
So I squeezed my dad’s hand and we cried happy/sad tears together. I had some catalyst moments these last few months that drove me to enroll after dreaming about this program for 12 flipping years. Even so, it’s been a HARD couple of weeks. My PTSD is maxed, my anxiety off the charts, and my faith in humanity bruised. But when I look back and look forward, I *still* have hope. The greatest responsibility I have as a mother is to hand over a kinder, wider, more-inclusive world to my daughters. My Oma was an orphan in Nazi Germany–she barely survived, forget gaining an education or voice. These last few weeks I’ve seen brave women like Dr. Christine Ford gain their voice. I’m still finding mine. But meanwhile, I’m not looking away or shutting up. I’m going to keep learning. I have stories I need to tell and things I need to say. My Great-Grandma Dotson already got woke when she was 12. Come January ’19, it’s my turn.