Friday, December 31, 2010

Your central story; My central story

A few posts back on this blog, you heard me talk about #reverb10, an annual, month-long online reflection project. Here's a bit more about it, from the website:
Reverb 10 is an annual event and online initiative to reflect on your year and manifest what’s next. With Reverb 10 - and the 31 prompts our authors have created for you - you'll have support on your journey.You can commit and start at any time and respond to the prompts in any way you wish - this project is designed for you to discover what needs discovering, however's best for you.
The organizers asked me to contribute one of the month's reflection prompts, and today my prompt goes live for several thousand bloggers and writers to consider. Even if you didn't participate in #reverb10, I think it's a pretty fascinating question to ponder in general, and I welcome your thoughts and responses in the comments section.

December 31 – Core Story. What central story is at the core of you, and how do you share it with the world? (Bonus: Consider your reflections from this month. Look through them to discover a thread you may not have noticed until today.)

Here is what you must know about me: I believe in stories.

I believe they have the power to shape us, to change us, to heal us, to teach us, to connect us. And more.

 There are other things that I believe in powerfully and passionately, too--the capacity for faith is a gift that has been alive in me my whole life, manifesting itself differently as I've grown and come to understand it more. (And it took a number of years for me to fully grasp that the things I believe in most won't always resonate or matter in the same way to others, and that that's okay.) But when I attempt to boil everything down to its simplest, most uncomplicated form, over and over, I come back to stories. Stories are universal. Stories are at the core of everything. Stories matter because they help us catalog and clarify our lives and experiences. Stories matter because we matter: I believe stories teach us how to be human--and how to be better humans, more fully human, even. And really, what is more important than that?
It's rare that a week goes by when I don't tell someone (sometimes shyly, sometimes bursting with pride) that I have my dream job. Because as an editor of children's and young adult books, I work with others who believe as I do, that stories matter enormously--and that they matter first and perhaps most, when we are becoming: when we are small children, and then bigger children; and when we are in the awkward stage between being children and being teenagers; and when we are teenagers, and then bigger teenagers; and even when we are in the awkward stage between being teenagers and being adults. In all of those phases, we are becoming the sort of humans we will be, at our core, for the rest of always. And if the stories that I help nurture and produce can ultimately interject more compassion, more hope, more truth into the core of many (or even a few) human beings--then I have more than "a dream job," I have an immensely privileged life.

But the sharing of stories belongs to everyone. And the truth is, we are always becoming, and not only as children or young adults. Because we all need to tell our stories, and we all need to hear stories, too. The stories change, we change--but the need for stories, for narratives by which to guide and inspire and challenge one another, I think that's a constant. Or at least it is for me.

I didn't participate in #reverb10 as much as I intended to this past Correction. I didn't blog or tweet public responses to the posts as much as I intended to. I pondered each prompt, mulling some over for days internally, discussing others with friends in-person. Most of all, though, I found myself wanting to speak/write less and listen more. And I think that's okay, that there are times to speak and times to be silent and both build us--and our own stories--up in different ways. Here is what I did more than I expected to this past month, though: I kept an open search on the #reverb10 hashtag all month long and clicked link after link after link each day, reading the open-hearted sharing of so many strangers. And I'm more human because of each link, because of those stories. I hope you are, too.

Stories connect us in remarkable ways; the internet connects us in remarkable ways, too. And so perhaps it's no wonder that #reverb10 was powerful for its participants: it did something exponential within and among its participants. And I'm the polar opposite of a math whiz, but if I recall, the mathematical meaning of exponents is that you raise one element to the power of another element. And so...I suspect that stories raised to the power of connectivity equal community, whether fleeting or permanent. And stories raised to the power of connectivity create, or at least help to uncover, meaning. Stories raised to the power of connectivity reveal something beautifully elemental, a sense of ourselves in relationship to the world and its people around us.

The creation and sharing of stories: Something so simple becomes exponential in the most mind-boggling of ways, so quickly: simply by living, the possibility opens up for stories, and for the resulting recognition and discovery and connectivity and potential and inspiration and power. And in examining stories, we discover ourselves, we discover our humanity, and the depths are endless. How amazing. How beautiful.

This, then, is the central story at the core of me: I believe in stories. I believe in them with all my heart. And I will never stop wanting to hear more of them.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Ten things I have been thinking about lately no particular order:

1. Snow!

2. Middle grade books -- I have been pondering many things about stories in this genre, but mostly: What makes them work, when they really work? (A blog post on this question and some possible answers is pending & percolating & coming soon, I think).

3. While we're at it, middle books, too--as in, the middle book of a multi-book series or trilogy--and the same question really: What makes them work, when they really work?

4. The annual apparently-I-just-never-learn question of Seriously, where did I hide my favorite winter hat, sometime last Spring? Argh!

5. Peppermint-flavored everything! (Especially ice cream.)

6. The power of community (especially in, but not limited to, our social media-centric world) and what makes a community's development organic versus contrived, and do such origins even matter, actually, once a community takes hold of itself?

7. Seasonal comfort reads (there's a blog post coming on this, too).

8. The question of the (proper? healthiest? most productive?) balance between pride and humility, when it comes to careers of all sorts.

9. The delicious anticipation that develops with building up a designated "holiday pleasure reading" pile.

10. Notions of perception and reality and how you need a bit of both to create a genuine story.

So there's a peek inside some things being pondered by this editor's brain at the moment. What about you? What questions, ideas, things, etc. have you been thinking about lately?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Gifts of the Internet (or, Why I think #reverb10 is awesome, & why you might, too)

[I currently have a wicked, never-ending cold, which has slowed me down considerably. Let's just pretend this blog was posted on December 1st as I originally intended it to be, shall we?]

Sometimes, the internet gives you gifts. Sometimes, those gifts are a laugh when you desperately needed it, or a dancing cat that expresses a myriad of things that you wish to express to a friend. But sometimes, and best of all, the internet gives you the gift of people--people you might never have met, were it not for the internet and its powers of connectivity.

A few years back, the internet gave me the gift of Gwen Bell. She lives in Colorado; I live in New York City, and were it not for the internet, I suspect that the chances of our ever crossing paths would have been fairly slim. Gwen's a social media guru/evangelist/expert, and her particular expertise and passion--besides simply living a vibrant life which I deeply admire--lies in helping people and companies discover the places where humanity and technology can intersect in positive ways. But underneath the work she does is the person she is: Gwen's a storyteller, and one whom I believe takes equal measures of (if not even more) joy in helping others to discover and share their own stories as she does in uncovering and sharing her own.

Why am I telling you about Gwen? Because she and two friends have created something which I think is of particular value to the many storytellers and writers and thinkers who read this blog: #reverb10, a month-long, online, end-of-year initiative that encourages you to ponder and share your responses to thoughtful daily prompts, written by authors & creative types (including a few folks from the kidlit world that you may recognize).

Reverb 10#reverb10 is free, and it's simple to join--sign up for daily prompts, and you'll receive each day's prompt in your email. Take it a step further, and become an official participant, registering your name and the url where you'll be posting your responses. You can get involved at any point in this 31-day project (so feel free to start late) by blogging or tweeting or Tumblr-ing--or video-blogging, or audio recording, or posting photographs, or however else the creative spirit moves you!--your responses to any or all of the prompts. And if you can, take some time to be inspired by some of the other people sharing their own #Reverb10 responses, too: at current count, over 2200 people have signed up, and reading their responses may give you your own "gifts of the internet" --potential new friends, and fascinating blogs/people that you might never have otherwise encountered. One way to do this is by following the #reverb10 hashtag on Twitter for a near-constant stream of inspiration; another way is by following @reverb10 on Twitter; if you're not on Twitter, you can also click through the links to people's blogs listed on the "Participate" page. And if I haven't explained all of this well enough, go here for the FAQ or go here for a more comprehensive explanation of how to participate, whether that means a lot or a little, and how to make participating the most meaningful experience for you.

Given my many other obligations, I'm going to admit right now that I won't manage a blog post for each day's prompt, but I intend to post responses to at least a few that particularly strike me throughout the month. And you can bet that even for the prompts that I'm not answering "out loud," I'm pondering them in my mind throughout the day, because there are few things more that I love than questions that make me stop and think meaningfully. So go! Be inspired! Consider this the opposite of NaNoWriMo, if you're so inclined--there's nothing to "win" or "lose" by participating--just the chance to write and to reflect and to share and to be inspired...and those are some of the best gifts we can find on the internet (or anywhere else, for that matter), in my mind. Happy pondering!