Why Can’t a Snowman Have Antennae?

snowman and Turley

I hope you took some time off over the holidays. While you were off, I hope you took time to play. And if you’re now back, I hope you’ll continue to carve out space for joy-filled moments.

The thing is, even when we’re on vacation, play doesn’t simply happen.

In order to play, we must say YES. You’d think this would be an easy thing to do, but … well, we all know how quickly “no” springs to our lips.

Dave, Turley and I had a wonderful break. We all love the snow, and spent a good part of a couple days stomping around in snow-shoes. Turley has snow-boots and socks, which mysteriously are the only thing that will keep the shoes on his paws … no one knows why. Still, we’re grateful we found a solution to the painful ice-balls that develop on his paws otherwise.

Even while snowshoeing, it was tempting to take myself way too seriously.

Snowshoeing is supposed to be a workout, right? But on the third day out, we decided to stop for a minute and create a snowman. The snow wasn’t at all right for snowman-making, but we didn’t let that stop us. The challenge made it all the more fun. Plus, we got creative about our snowman … my favorite part were the antennae.

You may have read that I’m launching a new mastermind this year called The Journey Project.

I truly hope you’ll join us. Why? Because I know that if we’re intentional, we can have a joy-filled year AND we can accomplish meaningful work. What if 2017 was the year that you never answered the question, “How are you?” with “I’m so busy!” What if instead, stories of memorable moments bubbled out of you? It’s all about the frame you put on your year. 

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Interview with Patricia Newman

Patricia Newman is the author of numerous books, including Plastic, Ahoy! Investigating the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and Ebola: Fears and Facts. She is a passionate literacy advocate and profiles authors and illustrators for California Kids, a regional parenting magazine. I was delighted to have the opportunity to chat with Patricia about creativity and writing for one of her thoughtful profiles. Here’s an excerpt from our interview.


Naomi Kinsman weaves her life around the creative process. Not only plumbing the depths of creativity for her middle-grade novels, but in teaching children and adults to find their passion for their stories. She started the Society of Young Inklings about eight years ago—named for C.S. Lewis’ and J. R. R. Tolkien’s Inklings group—to help children find their voices as writers. Naomi and I are represented by the same literary agency, and our paths frequently cross in the writing world. Her devotion to her craft is both inspirational and instructive. I spoke to Naomi by telephone to find out more about her creative process.

Patricia:  Is there a childhood memory that sticks out in your mind?

Naomi:  I was a very, very shy child. When I was in second grade, my mom took me to see a production of Annie, and I saw this little girl up on stage and she was exuberant and boisterous and I wanted that opportunity to try on a different personality. Around the same time our school was doing a musical called “Totally Buggy.” There was this character, a ladybug, who had this beautiful jazzy solo. I had my heart set on being the ladybug, but I couldn’t bring myself to audition. I admitted to my friend that I wanted the part. She got me to sing while we were alone on the swings. “The wind will be so loud I won’t be able to hear you,” she said. We did that day after day, and we got louder and louder. One day in class the girl who was the ladybug was sick, and the teacher asked for volunteers. Somehow I raised my hand. Everyone looked at me. No one thought I would do it, but I sang. I remember hearing my own voice in my ears, having my class look at me, and saying to myself you can do the impossible thing.

Read more …

Psst… Do you know about Naomi’s Tinder Box: a weekly collection of curated resources, inspiration and encouragement? Keep your creative spark ablaze … sign up for exclusive access here.

Blog Hoppin’ Around

A huge thank you to Marsha Qualey, one of my Hamline Creative Writing MFA faculty, for inviting me to this blog hop! I enjoyed thinking about these four questions and the opportunity to peek inside the writing process of my author-friends. And speaking of author-friends, don’t miss the three talented authors I’ve featured at the end of this post!

And without further ado, a little Q and A…

Q: What are you working on right now?

A: I’ve just dipped my toes into the water of writing a new novel which is so new that it doesn’t even have a working title yet. I’m revisiting characters from a work I recently completed titled Reflecting Hours. I’m in the stage of writing where I’m not even trying to write scenes in sequential order yet, instead simply accumulating scenes in order to hear the voice of the story. Soon, very soon, I need to take the plunge and dive into the deep water of the book, but for now, I’m giving the creative process space and giving myself room to play. It’s an interesting creative tension, the drive to finish a book and the need to enjoy the journey. One important lesson I learned through the process of writing and publishing the four-book From Sadie’s Sketchbook series is that to be a working author, one needs to take joy in every stage of creation, not just in the moment when one holds a finished book in one’s hands. Those moments do come, but the reality of being an author is that when you finish a book, the process starts over again. The beginnings of a book whispers to you, and you start to scribble it down on whatever paper you can find, until after weeks and possibly months, you have a draft to revise and polish and reshape. One of the most essential tasks of being an author is finding one’s rhythm, and I feel like even more than working on a book right now, I’m working on that even more important task of shaping my life as an author. Im working on finding a workable pace that will allow me to grow and develop with the writing of each new book, while still finishing the process in a reasonable amount of time.

Q: How does it differ from other books in the genre?

A: Reflecting Hours and it’s untitled sequel are what I’m calling “Chem-Punk.” Similar to Steam Punk, the books are set in an alternate reality where science has progressed differently than it has in our world. However instead of relying on steam power, the world of Reflecting Hours is built on advances made through chemical technology with deep roots in alchemy. The line between technology and magic has always been thin, being that one generation’s magic is another generation’s invention. Such is the case in these books. Magic clashes against science and Elixia, who has magical abilities she doesn’t fully understand, is faced with impossible decisions that have no simple answers.

Q: Why do you write what you do?

A: When I first started writing, I thought I’d only ever write fantasy. My writing heroes are Madeleine L’Engle and C.S. Lewis, and my bookshelves are stuffed with Cornelia Funke, Anne Ursu, Edward Eager, and Susan Cooper. However, I also have a full set of the Anne of Green Gables books, and many other books that explore the magic in real life by authors such as Sharon Creech, Shannon Hale, Kate DiCamillo, and E. L. Konigsburg. What I discovered as I learned the craft of being a writer, is that what I really want to do is explore the space between real and magic, those thin places where we ask, “Is it possible that…?” For me, life is fuller, deeper, more adventurous, when the answer to that question is, “Maybe so.”

Q: What is the hardest part about writing?

A: For me, the hardest part about writing is the hardest part about being an artist, or maybe even about being human. It seems like my whole life has conspired to slam me up against the truth: you can’t grow unless you’re willing to fail. Actually, you don’t only have to be willing; you have to truly fail sometimes, too. You don’t aim to fail, of course, but you take risks that put you in a position where you aren’t sure you can succeed. Sometimes you succeed at the new challenge and you grow at a steady, predictable pace. But sometimes you fail, and how you handle the failure is the crucible for exponential growth. For a person like me, a down-to-the-bones perfectionist, even the possibility of failure (particularly public failure) brings with it heart-thumping terror of a kind that should be reserved for giant spiders, tight enclosed spaces and things that go bump in the night. When we write, we put our hearts on the page with as much skill as we can. Despite our efforts, sometimes we don’t communicate what we’d hoped to say. Other times, we say exactly what we meant, and we rile others up. Sometimes the story that we see is on a far-away vista that our current skill can’t help us to reach. Most failures are much smaller, though, the daily moments when I read the words I wrote yesterday and I have to admit: I can do better. These private, small moments are the ones in which I build the muscles I need to become the kind of writer (and person) I long to be. I want to be a person who looks at my efforts and says, “I did my best yesterday, and now, today, I’m going to do even better. It’s okay that I’m not perfect the first or fourth or twentieth time. I’m growing and learning and becoming who I’m meant to be.” This kind of thing is much easier to say than to do, and I’d never want to become the kind of person who gave in to being adequate. It’s not that we shouldn’t dream big or aim high. We should. And because we do dream big and aim  high, we won’t always get it right the first time. The important thing is what we do when we see that we’ve fallen short. Will we get up and try again? Getting up, trying again, that’s the hardest part of writing for me.

And now, drumroll please… here are those three amazing authors I was telling you about. All of these lovely ladies are celebrating upcoming book releases!

First, Erin Dealey, whose book, DECK THE WALLS, A WACKY CHRISTMAS CAROL is coming out this September. This picture book is for the whole family and celebrates the joy of family and tradition and fun.

Second, Sue Fliess, whose picture book ROBOTS, ROBOTS EVERYWHERE (can you guess what it’s about??) has just hit the shelves.

Third, Holly Schindler, whose THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY for middle grade readers is scheduled to launch in February 2014.

I hope you’ll visit their blogs and check out their books! And if you’d like, I’d love to hear from you about what the hardest part of writing is for you. Share away, below.

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