Sometimes Your Passion is a Potato

Sometimes I wonder if what I’m working on is really just a potato… a filthy spud of a thing pulled from the garden. Full of eyes and dirt… but then I think about how wonderful potatoes can be once you do the right thing with them. Sometimes you have to chop them up, put them through some heat, add some spice, get the beans out and load it up….

What I’m trying to say, while also making myself incredibly hungry, is my drafts may smell right now…

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They may look confusing and unorganized.. but if I shrug off their value before I do anything good with them then nobody will ever know if it could have been just the right thing that fills someone up. I’m not striving to be the next JK Rowling. I know I’m not the next Laura Dockrill. Or Meg Cabot. Or even Laurie Halse Anderson. But what I am in my writing is me, and if I believe my writing is just a potato then I will never grow and flower and I will never find myself truly happy. I’ll be happy if somebody picks up the book and say’s “Oh, ouch. Been there.” Or wags off a friend to keep reading. Honestly. I will. But it won’t happen unless I do a bit of cooking up. So here’s my admission: this novel draft is a potato. It is. I know it is. BUT it’s about to be a loaded potato and there’s no way I’m keeping my paws off of it. Now: to get to work on this little lovie!

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The Rise and Fall

Since I have both the pension for writing, as well as the aptitude for drawing, I live (frantically) in two worlds.

For every rise, there is a fall. When my writing becomes center stage, I eventually drift away from my illustrations. When I get the motivation to draw again, I lose my characters complexities as I go searching for the right colors to color in puffy skirts and roller skates.

What I have found though is I can make time for each by using one as the warm up to the other.

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As I step into my office I’ll either roll my sleeves up and grab a Micron pen and doodle for 10-40 minutes or I’ll slap on a sweater and type out a page.

(The sweater is very important. No, it’s not COMPLETELY because I think every writer needs a comfy writer uniform, it’s mostly so I stay the same consistent heat and I don’t get too cold. When I’m cold I end getting distracted as I try to warm myself up.)

What I have found is not labeling myself in those moments as a writer or an illustrator, I often end up producing some of my best work.

Those drawing that I started as just flights of fancy become my favorite pieces and they end getting hung up my own personal wall of fame.

Those one-page prose? they end up being reworked and slipped in, perfectly, to the current novel I am working on and becoming what sets the mood for the rest of the book.

What I am saying is sometimes you need to believe you are what you aren’t, while doing what you always were. It helps.

If you don’t think you can write that book: try writing a page a day. in no time you’ll have a stack of pages that might just become what you have been trying to create, under pressure, for a long time.

Same goes with illustrations. Don’t put the pressure on. Have fun with it. give yourself some prompts, even if they don’t work out, let it be. let it be a drawing you can be proud of or learn from. not every work has to be a masterpiece. It’s all a learning process. But as luck may have it: some of those might end up being what turns your style upside down and sets your pen ablaze.

Embrace the rise and fall, let it speak to you, and welcome-in the unknown possibilities.

 

Like a chicken with its…

Been running around like crazy lately trying to capture any bits of sanity I can find.

At the end of January I had to move to Omak for family reasons. This was a move I was trying to get out of. I got another job, was working 80hrs a week… I was forcibly attempting to stay in the city I had known my whole life. Seattle. Where everything is comfortable and saying Fraiser quotes was kitschy and cliche and never got you a side glance.

I miss my Home and everything I had to leave behind. Including my favourite cupcakes at Cupcake Royale…. but I am trying to find my way over here in the mean time. Trying to make new friends, find art supplies, and reconnect with a family I’ve distance myself from for the last 15 years.

On top of all that I’ve been working my way back to the Art I have lost for the few months. I have been working on illustrations and pin commission. Coordinating with factories overseas for production of my designs…

It’s all fairly intense, but I’m honestly just trying to stay focused on my Art and writing because I know I don’t do well without it.

In time I know things will settle down and I’ll hopefully have the the money to move back to Seattle or out to London.

My goal is still to take on commissions and work on manuscripts so if you would like any work done for you let me know through the contact page. Pay special attention to the address since that has changed.  💛 Be Brave!

-Anna Jean

A Nugget

Just wanted to share with you a lil nugget. Since I have been home I have been out and about doing various readings at events and galleries. I did a performance at Hugo House back in August and then followed that up with an acceptance for my art to be exhibited at the University House in Issaquah.

Normally I would hesitate at letting others see my work, but since I have been home I have been writing and illustrating like crazy while working part-time.

On Friday I was able to visit with people at the gallery show for Children’s Book Illustration and loved all of the kids, parents, and grandparents that I got to see giggling over my illustrations.

I wouldn’t have gotten to see this if I didn’t make the time to dedicate my self to my art, and I am glad I finally did.

My little nugget for you all is…

Even when you are busy and dead tired you can find time to pursue your passion. If you can’t, you are putting your energy into the wrong thing. It’s you that chooses the path you take and how you walk it. The world may try to redirect you but in the end, you are the one that has to put your foot down on when you are going to make time to pursue your passion.

Art and writing is my passion.

“The foot is down, the foot is DOWN!”

Coming Home… From Home

5 days ago I returned home from a two-week stay in London. Or as I like to call it… HOME.

I have been wishing and bleating about how I have wanted to go there my entire life. Since I was probably about 5 or 6 years old I have fancied the UK. My first hero’s were the Spice Girls and Princess Diana… and you know how that ended.

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On the 27th I flew from Seattle-> Las Vegas-> London. By the time I landed, I had to get myself to the flat I was renting, meet my host, and prepare myself mentally for what I was about to do next.

9F638315-A4C6-4666-ADAE-F4E11531739CHonestly, I didn’t think I was going to be able to pull this off and especially not after a 15-hour journey. But, it was “For Book’s Sake”, which was a group I really resonated with so I needed to make this happen.

I scrubbed my face, brushed my teeth, changed clothes, and put on new makeup with metallic heart shaped freckles (from Mr. Kate’s Beauty Mark Collection). I jetted out the door, with a phone battery on 20%, to head off to Shoreditch… Sure that I was going to fall at some point or lose every inch of my lunch.

As I got closer to the event I found myself being overcome by the mundane life in the streets surrounding me. Forcing myself not to be overcome with emotions: I was failing miserably. I was becoming so overwhelmed and I was also worried I was about to get lost as my iPhone’s battery began to squeak out its last few percentages of dreadful red.

I looked up just in time to see the name of the street I was looking for, scrawled out on a worn placard, up above the edge of an old building just across the street. When I looked back down my phone was dead, so I crossed the street and hoped that Leonard street wasn’t too long and that if I just kept walking I would eventually end up where I needed to be.

Through gritted teeth, tired legs, and heavy eyes, I made it to ‘The Book Club” In Shoreditch. I walked down the staircase into the basement and met with the wonderful event organizer, Paul, and chatted with him about the flight to the UK from the US and the impending sense of doom that was filling up my insides like cement.

I let him know of the situation I was undergoing.

That I was supposed to be reading my poetry in about 45 minutes but all my poetry was locked away neatly on my iPhone. My dead iPhone.

He lent me his charging brick and as it began to finally come back to life I could hear the clicking of two sets of shoes coming down the same staircase I had just made my way down. I stood behind the DJ table… mostly wondering if I should move.I knew the voice I was hearing.

I knew the voice I was hearing.

I knew it because it was like mother’s milk to me. Her voice has been what has kept me reading, re-writing, and believing in extreme impossibilities for the last handful of years. Her small cheery laugh crackled through the passageway and into the performance hall. It crackled in me as well. I walked forward, trying not to leap as she walked in.

“Laura?”

“Yes? Oh My God! You’re here! When I saw your name on the bill I wasn’t sure it was you since you lived so far away! Anna Jean, right?”

One could say I died right then and there. that it took the three bottles of cider that was free from Paul to revive me, but even that would be wrong.

We talked for a bit longer about different things before my friends Hana and Nadine showed up. They were my tethers to make sure I didn’t loose it since I hadn’t performed a lick of my poetry in 12 years. Having them there meant more than I can ever express.

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When I got up to perform the two poems from my next poetry collection due out next year (This Garden – 2018) I had only planned on performing one. My cousin sat in the audience and It frightened me to think she might share the videos of this performance with my family. But, before I went on stage I had swizzled down 1 & 1/2 bottles of strawberry lime cider and decided I would let the distilled courage speak for me; by performing the 2nd piece. Despite my cousin being in the audience.

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Before I had gone up I had given Laura Dockrill a gift bag full of little things. A painting I had made for her release, a few pins for her denim jacket, and a handmade Darcy Burdock doll that left her speechless. We chatted ever so briefly about how I wasn’t going to be doing the piece I had practiced because my cousin was going to be there and I feared my families critical critique and judgment. She shared with me that she never showed her work to judgmental and critical people. So when she said that it was a bummer she didn’t get to hear the poem I had worked on, especially because it was for that night, I let that sit inside me.

When I finished the 1st poem, the replacement poem, I listened to the applause, chuckled and then scrolled to the original piece on my phone. I only looked to Laura. Then opened my mouth to read what I feared most.

“Loving this

Is hard for people

but it’s even harder

to love it myself …”

I started in and looked up in-between bits to wide expressions, open mouths, and bums on the edges of seats.

When I finished they roared, some even stood up. I bowed slightly and ran off the stage.

My cousin engulfed me in a huge hug, wrapping her arms around me, putting her forehead against mine, and telling me how much she was inspired by me and how she hopes I never hide who I am.

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But then there was Laura, who I wish one day could just be my mentor, or a friend, or even an equal in the writing world. She looked at me, gave me a huge hug, then put one hand on top of mine and said: “Was that last one the piece you weren’t going to do?”  When I nodded she beamed. “I’m so glad you did. You were amazing! That was fucking fantastic!”

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Later she would ask me if was still with the person I talked about loving in my first poem. “No, but she taught me I was capable of loving again, so to me, that was more important.”

She nodded, understandingly, and set off to talk with her PR manager and her friend Buzz.

In about an hours time we had gone through a series of wonderful poets and storytellers. Each more moving than the last.

Then Laura got up and spoke about Aurabel, and read a glimmering jewel of a section from Big Bones, her next book due out in 2018. I was hooked. It was like our pieces had perfectly mimicked each other’s themes. Following the art of loving while feeling trapped by the world around you and the feeling of loving food, even though you are being told not to love yourself.

(Aurabel, for those not familiar with Laura’s book Lorali, is a sequel to her first Young Adult book following the tumultuous love between a mermaid and teenage boy. In this one, they are back, though everything is shifted and the focus lies on Aurabel and the life she lives. It starts in an underwater city named Tippi, which to me… very closely reminds me of Brixton, where I stayed in London. You can feel a lot of London in the book as well as a whole slew of other themes. Which I won’t giveaway… You’ll just have to go buy it yourself.)

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That night I will never truly forget. Ever. I have two signed books to remind me that the whole thing actually DID happen. That I flew halfway around the world to perform at a “That’s What She Said!” event and fell in love with the city and the people.

I spent the next to weeks writing, crying, drawing, missing a couple concerts: yes, but also finding myself in the muddy waters of the Thames.

I cried getting on to the plane because I didn’t want to leave. It felt to much like home.. that i didn’t want to return to my actual home.

Oi Oi. Londonnnnn! You’ve been toooo good. I’m looking forward to seeing you in March!

And as a thank you… here. Have a sketch from my flat’s window.

(ooooh, PS. I sold out of all my poetry books while I was over there! Boom Shakalakka!)IMG_1896

Lets take a quick recap, shall we?

This has been an eventful last few months in my life. While normal everyday stuff with my day job hasn’t changed much, writing has ultimately been feeding my creative soul as everything else has been going topsy-turvy.

The end of March was the 1 year anniversary of Caspian the Brave! and I couldn’t be happier with what it has accomplished! It has made me so happy and has touched a fortuitous amount of happy readers. I have heard back from tons of families! Each correspondence is a positive message about how it is changing the outlook of so many that are reading it and how they deal with anxiety and being brave. I can’t believe that a story I wrote just for me is getting so much love. I am still in awe! I was sent this video of Dalton reading my book for the first time just last week. Talk about tears?! I am so proud of you Dalton! Keep up the great reading!

 

In April I sent off my first agent submission and gritted my teeth. I still haven’t heard back, which I am not mad about, but the fact that I finally buckled down and sent it meant that I am finally putting a value on my work and not looking at myself as a fraud. I am a writer. I am an Author. I am an Illustrator. If I want to continue to motivate people to follow their dreams I need to step up and fight for mine. So I submitted and I am not going to harpoon my future by saying it will be the only submission I send in, I will be putting myself out there for much more in the next few months.

Screenshot+2017-05-20+02.59.40April also saw the loss of my dog, Ricky, and while this is still hard for my to deal with we welcomed a new kind soul into our lives by the name of Ducky. He is a ball of energy and the walks and playtime have me exploring more creeks and ball fields than my old play pal was able to do with his arthritis and loss of sight. It’s good to have a friend along for exploring and I am sure it will start to show in my artwork.

Screenshot+2017-05-20+03.17.00Speaking of artwork. On the first of May, I began ramping up my artwork. I have dedicated myself to working on drawing at least once a day. even if its only for 5 minutes or finishing off a painting or drawing from the day before. I am pushing myself to maintain my focus so my style improves and becomes stronger.

img_3022To put it into further perspective 3 of my illustrations were also chosen for a Gallery exhibit for September-January 2018. I am ecstatic to be chosen and to be one of the featured artists! bThey will be on exhibit at the University House – Issaquah and If anybody wants more information I can drum it up for you!

book reading nervsMay also brought along a huge goal that I didn’t think I would ever actually do because of my stage fright. I did my FIRST book reading at our local Half Price Books! Little Ol’ me! I had a petite crowd but everyone in the crowd bought the book. Including one that wasn’t able to make it and a Former President! (Thank you, Sir! It was a pleasure meeting you Jimmy! x) It was an event I didn’t think I would be able to do but I was so happy I was able to! I look forward to doing more in the future!

Screenshot+2017-05-20+02.56.45Then a couple weeks ago I was drawing, while eating a yummo Margarita Cupcake from Cupcake Royale in West Seattle, and decided to sketch out a quick little Darcy Burdock for Laura Dockrill.

Screenshot+2017-05-20+02.24.03She is one of my favorite Authors and Illustrators and about an hour later I saw her Instagram notification and went completely un-audible for the next several hours. We’re talking tears, squeaky, high pitched noises only dogs could hear… while sobbing over the last few dregs of Stumptown coffee I had left. Still my absolute highlight of May!

Screenshot+2017-05-20+02.58.29Then just last night I was able to meet and chat with the wonderful Drew Daywalt! He is the wonderful Author behind “The Day the Crayons Quit”, “The Day the Crayons Came Home”, and “The LEGEND fo ROCK PAPER SCISSORS” Talk about shy Fan-Girling! I had to push myself to talk since I am not normally one to ask a bunch of questions or talk to people I haven’t met via someone else. But it was lovely to get to know somebody who has been through the trenches and could offer me a little feedback. I asked him what he wished he would have done starting out… his only answer? “I wish I would have started sooner!” Affirmative! I’m with you on that! Thank you also to Beth, Susan, and Suzanne! It was great talking books with you!

Screenshot+2017-05-20+02.55.01As you can see the road has been crazy! I am working on another book right now and getting color pallets together on my drafts. I can’t stop writing! I find myself telling Siri to take down notes of book ideas even while I’m driving! I have close to 18 books in the works… seriously. I can’t stop. This year is going to be fun!

Next month I head to London for almost two weeks. I am looking forward to it! And yes, I am bringing my sketchbook. I’ll be doing artwork and talking and meeting with friends while I am there. I’ll be sitting down with a few people eagerly waiting to hear how to get started in the world of Writing and Illustrating. I love being a rock for new people to latch onto so I can help motivate them to succeed. This trip will be far more than business and relaxing. It is a chance to once again step out of my comfort zone and try something new. I can’t wait! honestly! It will be on a tight budget, because “starving artist” is definitely rooted in the truth, but inspiration comes from exploration and I will have no numeric limits on my creativity. I hate numbers.

Speaking of numbers. My birthday is the 25th of May and I can’t believe I am turning 29! So from this day forward, I refuse to grow up. Take the 2 away from 9 and I will perpetually be a gifted 7-year-old for now on. That’s how this works, right? if It’s not… Welcome to the new standard of age measurement.

 

That Little Voice is Whispering…

At the beginning of the month I was blessed beyond belief to be able to attend the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) Western Washington meeting.

I can’t tell you how much winning this membership has mean to me and I’ve only been to one meeting. But it has me free styling my writing and so many of books have begun taking on a whole new life. I have been offered to start a lecture series soon and am continuing to get my portfolio ready to send to agents. My work is becoming my passion.

It’s what drives me from the moment I wake up and what keeps me at my second job. 

I have a long list of stories I’m writing. Some are children’s books, some early readers, poetry, and even the beginnings of a novel in the works.

To say I have been busy is an understatement, but I wouldn’t change it.

I have started to push myself to either write for ten minutes before bed, or when I wake up. It’s in those moments where my mind is just foggy enough not to care about perfect spelling and flawed grammar. I can get out the story, or at least a upscaled outline.

This is something I think we need to remember: we don’t grow unless we are practicing and improving. Don’t polish the same stone hoping to make it better and better. All you are doing is rubbing off the edgy bits that make it unique. Refine it, but keep your character. That’s where your voice lies. Your writing voice is your own, and only you can tell it like you can. We each come from different backgrounds and different experiences, so we all have different perspectives. Use it when writing… even if you feel it’s already been done! It’s your story, from your point of view, and that’s what’s valuable.

 

So looking back at this rough and tumble month I see a lot of things going on. A lot of scenery missed while doing the big bits of being an adult, but these are experiences I can use for my writing one day so I am willing to push through them and listen to my inner voice.

My inner voice is saying to keep writing and dream bigger, and I hope you will as well.