Tuesday, December 26, 2017

New Year's Resolutions: I'm giving them an A: Avert, Act, Affirm.

I know I'm not here as much anymore.

I miss it, the blogging. I do.

It's been a year. So much has changed about our world -- our country -- been painfully unearthed, laid bare and oozing, all jagged teeth and slime, like some alien thing from the deep.

I know for many the evil has been visible for a long time, like some movie clown in the sewers, red eyes glaring, calling for others to climb in. And climb in, they did, and now they've all climbed out again, with the worst of the oozing, pus-filled aliens at the helm.

For most of us, it feels like a waking nightmare, one many of us never thought we'd see in our country. For our kids' sake, I hope we survive it. . .

But I digress. 2018 is on the horizon and there is much to do for as long as this oozing sore of a country is still dragging its sorry ass awake each morning with the sunrise, and to bed after dark. So here are my resolutions. I'm giving them an A. Or three. AVERT. AFFIRM. And, ACT.  

AVERT: When THE PULL OF GRAVITY came out years ago, though my editor adored the book, it had very little in-house support. Having taken nearly 10 years to get a book deal, I wasn't about to let the book, which garnered pretty stellar reviews and a Bank Street Best designation, disappear quietly into the ether. So I did what I knew how to do: I put my marketing hat on (yes, my undergrad degree is in marketing) and began to scour the internet for mentions of the book and/or mentions of OF MICE AND MEN being taught, so that I could try to make connections and get the book in readers hands around the country. Checking on my book morning and night, finding ways to promote it, became what I did. I'd often spend three or four hours a day reaching out to schools and trying to get the book seen. It's a habit that has continued through THE SUMMER OF LETTING GO and THE MEMORY OF THINGS. The problem is, it's both a time suck and an easy distraction (at least compared to writing something new), not to mention a rather narcissistic sort of endeavor that often only leads to comparison and disappointment. So, for starters in 2018, I am resolving to avert my eyes from all that, and to only to spend a minimal allotted time looking under the guise of marketing or otherwise, assuming anything I need to know will come to my attention. Maybe fifteen minutes on Fridays. The rest will be a battle not to search and click.

There's a second way I'm needing to avert my eyes. There is a lot of divisiveness and angry discourse taking place in Children's Publishing right now. If you want to see one small example of the nature of it, you can read THIS PIECE and then THE COMMENTS to it. The business has grown frustrating and upsetting to me in that way: that, while all of us seem to agree on underlying issues and values, the callout culture and dragging has become ugly for those of us who may not agree with the methodology, who might prefer a more mindful, nonjudgmental conversation. I, for one, try to affirm and hold up, but never tear down on the basis that there is little we can know about a person from a single tweet, or even a single snapshot of their life during a period of time. But we are living through a callout, dragging, tear down culture:

I don't know Eric Smith but have redacted the photo and name of an author I do know
and otherwise respect who is here describing another author's public excitement
about "dragging" Joyce Carol Oates as "levity."
This breaks my heart and I certainly don't feel it elevates the conversation.

Yes, I've saved many screenshots that speak to my concerns, though I won't share more than this single one here, now, because I don't want to have an online faux or half discussion. I am saving them in case I ever have an opportunity to have these conversations in person or on panels if anyone really wants to mindfully dig deep into the complexities of the issues rather than merely championing one side in an angry echo chamber.

What I do know is that it feels very much like a microcosm of the macrocosm that has been unfolding for the past years in the democratic party, where very little true listening and hearing goes on, only angry barked agendas. And, it frightens me because I believe long-term it will hurt us more than it will help. I believe we need to proceed non-judgmentally, without anger, and that, instead, we not only conflate issues (which undermines their seriousness), but also that there is a large amount of hypocrisy taking place within the movement (people doing the very thing they righteously tell others not to do, by coming up with excuses why it's okay for them, how their behavior is differentiated). In my very humble opinion, twitter has never been the right place to have REAL CONVERSATIONS. TO LISTEN AND BE HEARD. Yet, watching the twitter community is like rubbernecking -- hard to turn away from though it upsets me to no end. So, in that regard, too, unless I have a way to add healthily to the conversation, I'm going to stop reading -- Avert -- and stop wasting time, and stick to what I've always done which is do my best to hold up and share those pushing positive messages (Affirming) and  do a better job of averting my eyes from the rest. It's a waste of time which I can otherwise spend taking Action.


With amazing assemblywoman Christine Pelligrino (who won a special election in a deeply red district),
and with my personal superhero, NY Attorney General Eric Schneiderman at a recent fundraiser for
progressive causes.

Campaigning for a local candidate for Town Supervisor 
At the women's march with my mom and sisters. <3 td="">

So, I am hoping step one, Avert, will give me more time to Act. Whether that action is writing, protesting, swimming, doing yoga, teaching writing, or playing with the dog, it's all good. I just need to DO all the things I want to do, and NOT DO all the things that rile me up but ultimately waste time because they don't get done what needs to get done.

As far as the resistance goes, I know we're all exhausted, but we're just getting started. We need to turn the country blue in 2018, and that means there is no tiring of marching, of speaking out, of making phone calls, of trying to help in whatever way we are each able.

Which leads to me to this: AFFIRM.

It's this simple: There are many ways to help in this world (and, likely, an equal many ways to do harm). I am resolving to help in the best way I know how, which is to always be as mindful as possible, to leave judgment (and righteousness) behind, and only to lift up and amplify where reasonable, right, and possible, while NEVER tearing down.

These are my resolutions for 2018. I will also renew two longstanding resolutions: to be a good confidante, and to take the stairs.  Oh yeah, and to stop sleeping so late, even in the face of the endless cycle of depressing news to wake up to.

These are my resolutions for 2018. What are yours?