Murphy’s Law of Baby Wipes

Disaster will strike the minute you run out of wipes. Typically on the road far far away from home.

Case #1: The Perfectly Aimed Barf
Or, The Case of the Stupid Mom Who Threw Her Baby into the Air Right After Feeding Him.

We brought baby to an MLS Earthquakes game when he was a few months old. He got fussy, so I found a slightly more private seat near the stairs and began to nurse him. When he finished, I played with him a little, trying to get him to smile. For some idiotic reason, I thought holding him up in the air above my face would be a good idea. Rookie mistake.

Carter spewed a perfect vomit-fall straight into my open mouth. Naturally, my first reaction was to look around to make sure no one caught it on camera. Not trying to be the next baby barfing into mom’s mouth viral video here.

Case #2: The In-n-Out Incident
Or, The Case of the Exploding Road Trip Poop.

It is as it sounds. Andy, Carter and I were on the way home from a weekend in Asilomar, where I attended my first SCBWI writer’s conference. We were down to one measly baby wipe, but elected not to buy more – it was Sunday and we don’t spend money on Sundays, plus we were only an hour a way from home. What’s the worst that could happen?

Oh, just the most massive, explosive baby poop ever known to humanity. I reached back to pat baby’s leg and came back with a hand covered with poo slime. It only got uglier from there. We eventually pulled over at an In-n-Out where the first available parking space was next to the nice lady taking drive through orders.

Drive through customers with nothing better to do enjoyed the free show as we stripped our baby butt-naked and ran frantically in and out of In-n-Out for damp paper towels. All of Carter’s clothes went into a “To Burn” pile on the floor. Carter, of course, was just thrilled to be naked.

Case #3: The Unstoppable Barf Machine
Or, The Case of the Baby Who Repeatedly Projectile Vomited All Over Himself While Stuck in His Car Seat in Traffic.

My mom and step-dad watched Carter one afternoon and we met up in San Francisco for a baby exchange, but they forgot the diaper bag – with the wipes and backup clothes. No biggie, we were only thirty minutes from home.

Cue projectile vomit. And not just any old projectile baby vomit, but repeated spewing over and over and over again. All over himself. While stuck in traffic. In a matter of minutes, lumpy, stinky, milk-colored mess covered Carter as he stewed in his own personal barf puddle. He kept pointing at the goop saying, “Gwoss. Gwoss. Mama! Bwoke it! Gwoss.”

It took forever to exit, then another eternity to find a gas station. Commence butt-naked stripping of baby in public parking lot and running in and out of the bathroom for wet paper towels.

Also, Andy is a sympathetic vomiter. Actually, anything stinky makes him gag uncontrollably. He makes such strangled gagging noises during a normal diaper change that Carter can’t stop laughing. He gave us quite an orchestra of sound throughout this whole ordeal.

One paper-towel lined car seat and a half-naked baby later, we were on our way home.

But, it could have been worse. At least we didn’t get the cops called on us like this guy.

Moral of both stories: Remember the dang wipes! Or else…

IMG_5286
Post-barf Carter. Poor Booger.

Starting My Publishing Journey

Remember oh, early December, when I wrote this post on diversity in children’s books? I made a commitment to publish books for children of color and committed to publishing something myself if I didn’t have something in the works by June.

Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!

BWAAAAA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!!!!

I take it back. Clearly, I had no idea what I was talking about when I made that commitment. Since then, I have taken a few little steps into the world of children’s publishing. I started out by researching publishers online, visiting many publishing websites, blogs and boards. I attempted to draft unsolicited query letters to publishers only to realize that perhaps I should be looking for an agent first. This led me into a brief phase during which I thought I would try my hand at illustrating my own stories. That was short-lived. I talked with a publisher who gave me good advice. Namely, learn more about the craft. Work on your writing.

So, I joined the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and attended a conference last weekend at Asilomar. I chatted with beginning writers – like me! – published writers, agents and editors. I was inspired! I was uplifted! I was filled with passion and fire!

And, I am overwhelmed but undaunted by the long road ahead. Key lessons I’ve learned on my journey so far:

Children’s Writing is an Art Form
Writing children’s books is an art. To the untrained eye, a picture book seems like a collection of simple words and a simpler story line. Anyone could do that, I am ashamed to admit I mistakenly believed. Underscore ashamed and the past tense form of believe. I’ve been schooled. There is a world of intentionally executed pacing and page turns, theme, voice, perspective, word choice, rhythm, flow, sound and character development that lives in every book. I never imagined that some picture book writers take years revising their stories to perfection.

It reminds me of teaching. Teaching is an art form. It is possible to recognize a masterful teacher; but, to the untrained eye, it is not always possible to see the thousands of choices s/he is making throughout a class period. Lesson planning and pedagogy aside, there are the relationships built, intentional pacing of the space, specific word choice and signals, teacher stink-eye, phrasing of questions and follow-up and a million other details that make teachers artists.

Great picture books are complex, layered stories told in less than 1000 words. Humanity’s lessons written in 32-40 page stories that a five year old can understand. A writer has to say much with little; it is no easy feat. Children’s book writers take tremendous pride in their art and I am humbled. I want to learn. I want to become a master artist. And it won’t happen overnight.

A sketch from my brief stint as an aspiring author/illustrator.

Empathy and Impact
Stories change lives. They change they way we look at others and the world. One of my favorite memories from teaching English is the day my students read their personal narratives to the class. They shared and learned personal stories with tremendous vulnerability and began to see each other – and themselves – differently as a result.

At the Asilomar conference, author Deborah Underwood shared an example of an everyday story that makes an impact on our perceptions. She contrasted the striking difference of emotions we might feel between two versions of the same experience: being stuck for miles behind a driver going 15 mph on a windy road vs. being stuck for miles behind a driver going 15 mph on a windy road knowing the driver is rushing his sick cat to the vet but is driving slowly because the cat gets carsick with increased speed. Our frustration is curbed and we feel greater compassion and patience when we know the driver’s story.

Stories build empathy and challenge assumptions. As such, they have the ability to create lasting change. Stories shared with the rising generation can shape their ideas of truth and possibility. They can create connections and break down barriers. Stories are tools for equity. Understanding this fuels my desire to write and publish. Writing is not a side-gig hobby I’m dabbling in because of a quaint, momentary inspiration I had after giving birth to Carter. Stories can change lives, can change public opinion, can change the world. So, I will write stories until I learn to write stories.

Perseverance
In an industry where a Newbery Award winning author has ten years of rejection letters from pages upon pages of editors and agents (I’ve seen the pictures and it ain’t pretty!) I’m beginning to understand the sheer grit and determination it will take to reach my goals. It ain’t gonna be pretty but I’m not going to give up. That is all.

(Someone remind me that I wrote this when I’m ready to throw in the towel after 32392834792835601 rejection letters, please.)

Another sketch. Sticking to writing. Maybe I’ll put these on a t-shirt for myself.

Revisiting My Goals
So, it has become painfully clear that this whole, if I don’t-find-someone-who-will-publish-my stories-by-June business is laughably, woefully uninformed. I’ve also realized that I don’t want to self publish. So, my ultimate goal is still to be published. Several times over. But, methinks I need to give myself a lllllllllllllooooooooooooootttttttttttttttt more time. Preferably before I turn grey?

My revised goals for this year:

  • Continue to improve my writing. Form a critique group that meets regularly, take classes, read books. Write a lot, revise a lot. Write some more.
  • Finish at least four stories by the end of summer
  • Submit queries to at least 20 agents by December
  • Don’t lose hope when the rejections come in! Keep submitting and writing.

Closing words that inspired me from the conference:

Crazy and stupid are not the same thing. – LeUyen Pham

There is a fine line between genius and insanity. I have erased this line. – Oscar Levant