For Christmas, Teddie, the much adored leader of my critique group, The Skyway Writers, gave each member a beautiful, red-beaded bracelet. Now, I wear it every time I write. It makes me feel connected to my talented peers as I sit at my lonely desk, trying to find the right words to tell a story only I can tell. I love starting the year with a positive new tradition.
I announced at the end of last month that I planned to steer this blog in a new direction. My focus will be encouraging teen readers, writers and artists. There's no better way to start than by celebrating great books. This week, one of my favorite authors, Kate DiCamillo, won the John Newbery award for the second time with her latest book, Flora and Ulysses. Have you read it? I haven't and I'm eager to get my hands on it. I've loved all her other books so I know what to expect. That's the thing about favorite authors. They don't disappoint.
And this brings me to my first 2014 resolution: to read five more books from the Newbery Award list and five books from the Michael L. Printz Award list. The American Library Association, who hands out many esteemed book awards, is a fantastic place to find lists of books you'll really really really want to read. No really. They're great books by great authors. Authors you'll be sorry you don't know if you don't read their books, like John Green, M.T. Anderson and Melina Marchetta. What titles would you choose if you had to choose just five? I think I'll start with Dodger by Terry Pratchett, a Printz 2013 winner. Pratchett is one of my husband's favorite authors. And from the Newbery list, I'll choose The Underneath by Kathi Appelt. As soon as I've read them, I'll let you know what I think. If you read any Printz or Newbery books and you want to share your reaction, I'd love you to post a comment here.
My second resolution for 2014 is to draw. Art used to be a natural part of my days. But since writing took over my brain, my sketchbooks and pencils sit lonely on a shelf. So every blog post, I'll share new art, even if it's something I'm tempted to hide under the bed. We're our own worst critics, artists and writers. And the more we judge our work, the less we grow. The self critic is a nasty little imp. It's mantra is "You're work isn't good enough." And if you listen to the imp, it will talk you right out of your artistic hopes and dreams.
So don't listen. Kick that imp into a trash can and jam the lid down. Drown out the imps' screams with music and create your best work today, right this very minute.
In honor of Kathy Appelt's The Underneath which features a dog who lives under a trailer, I drew my dogs who spend a good part of the winter under blankets on the couch. That's Hobbit, the Jack Russell, in the top corner. And yes, he always looks mad about something. Or worried. It's hard to tell which and either way, Ella, the Catahoula, knows to steer clear of him.