Posted by: jeannineatkins | November 3, 2016

Grateful

Many of us are nervous about the election, watching too much news and eating too much stale candy corn. Happily, lots of trees are yellow and many days are warm. When our walk yesterday was postponed, my dog rested his big head on the windowsill and gazed out, reminding me that the world beyond my computer is waiting. And so we walked, breathing the slightly burnt scent of dried leaves. And one of us took a dip.

kirbyleavesbrook

Sometimes I wait for a peaceful time to write. And sometimes I remember that peace comes when I write. I recently had a conversation with a woman who’s starting out as a writer and looking for answers about whether she has what it takes to add to books that children will want to read. Of course there isn’t an answer – you knew I’d say that, right? And isn’t that annoying. But the way toward writing a good book, or any book, is pretty much through the dark. We can’t know if anyone, at least beyond a few trusted friends – and they are a most excellent start – will want to read what we write. To keep going, we have to lean on our own desire to put the right words in the right order.

For me that has meant years, and I mean a lot of years, of writing without being published. Now Finding Wonders is just out and Stone Mirrors will be published in January. I couldn’t be more grateful. But back at my laptop, it’s still just me following a vague vision in my mind, trying to make the pieces clearer, and maybe even shine. Eventually the person I’m writing about joins me on the window seat, then on my walks. Her choosing to appear is my assurance, the only kind I might get for a long while, that what’s under my hands is slowly on its way to becoming a book.

But sometimes I leave my laptop and not just with dog treats in my pocket. Earlier this week, I was lucky to work with some of the high school students who rode busses and vans to Greenfield Community College to listen to, write, and read some poetry. The program was sponsored by the Massachusetts Poetry Organization as part of their mission to bring more poetry into communities. Yay!

I’m thrilled to have an essay in the current issue of The Horn Book called Saving Sisters: Sisterhood in Little Women, The Hunger Games, and Frozen.

hungergames

And so happy that my first two reviews for Stone Mirrors: The Sculpture and Silence of Edmonia Lewis, coming out in January, have stars! I lived with this book for about fifteen years, writing lots of drafts and collecting lots of rejections. Kirkus Reviews writes: “Atkins’ compressed verse evokes both the racial realities of the time, including violence, and the artistic process: A fascinating, tantalizing glimpse.” And Booklist says, “How this brave, driven young woman overcame prejudice and trauma to pursue her artistic calling to the highest level … is a story that warrants such artful retelling.”

It’s a good feeling to know the girls and women I’ve come to love are loved by others. And so I return to another woman who’s been part of history all along, but it’s time for her to step out of the shadows.

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Responses

  1. Finding Wonders is making its rounds in my classroom, and I am grateful to you for opening my students’ eyes and imaginations, Jeannine…I am grateful that writers like you persevere in the writing life – you enrich ours in so many ways.

    • You are so kind! Thank you for putting Finding Wonders in your students’ paths!

  2. I can see the people of your writing joining you on the window seat, and why your dog wanted to take a dip with the fall of Autumn leaves -both wonderful images.

    • Thank you for reading, and leaving such a delicious note!

  3. I love being one of your readers! Congratulations on those wonderful reviews.

  4. High praise, Jeannine – “a story that warrants such artful retelling.” Reading your posts and your books is like traveling a smooth, loving path.

    • I couldn’t have asked more of a review. And your words, too, fill me. Thank you!


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