Anny’s Grand YouTube Experiment

How many of you watch YouTube videos regularly? Raise your hands.

Hopefully at least a few of you raised your hands!

In my quest to find the main ‘gateway’ to my audience, I’ve decided to double down on YouTube and see what happens. I picked YT because it’s the only platform I know that spans all ages from 8-60 or so. My goal is to create an engaged community made up of my potential readers and connectors.

Kid lit authors are in a unique position because they often can’t interact directly with their readers. (Unfortunately in this day and age an adult author reaching out to a kid on social media is considered creepy no matter what the intention.) Also my young readers can’t buy the books themselves. So I have to reach the connectors first…i.e. educators who can recommend my books, parents who buy the books, and booksellers who sell them. (Of course I hope the adults will enjoy reading my books too, but you can’t plan to have a ‘crossover’ book.)

The downside of YouTube for me, and many others, is that it’s arguably the hardest platform to participate in. Besides the equipment you need to film the vids, the software you need to edit them, and the months/years it takes to become decent at editing, YT can trigger a whole host of insecurities.

For me it’s my round face, the potential glare in my glasses, what should I wear each time, can I keep your attention, what kind of comments will I get, will I get any comments at all.

Emily Graslie, a YouTube champ, who also happens to be the Chief Curiosity Correspondent for the Field Museum in chitown sums this up eloquently in her video entitled: Where My Ladies At?

So why do it? Besides what I said above, to me video it the most intimate and engaging way to reach you, my community. Plus, I’m drawn to try it despite my fears.

In the coming weeks I’m going to be posting my first interviews for my Active Acceptance Project. (More about that later.) I hope you’ll tune in and let me know what you think!

Please spread the word about my project/channel, feel free to suggest other neat ways to expose folks to Active Acceptance, send video ideas, and whatever else you can think of to me by posting a comment below, or tweeting me or posting a comment on my YouTube channel. I can use all the help I can get.  

FYI: Please share this letter with others you think would enjoy it.

#AcceptanceEmpowers

Purple Passion of the Fortnight:
YouTube’s logo if I were in charge!


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Just When I Thought I Was Out, They Pulled Me Back In

Something remarkably unexpected is going on in my life–I’m being pulled back ‘home.’ (Home in this instance refers to my hometown.) And I like it.

It’s remarkable because I disliked living in my hometown so much that at eleven I told my mom that I was leaving and never coming back. “You can visit me wherever I am though,” I reassured her.

It’s remarkable because I wanted to get out of dodge so badly, that I convinced her to let me go to boarding school in Boston starting at age fifteen. (I never felt safe or accepted in my hometown.)

It’s remarkable because she and I knew I’d NEVER come back to live in my hometown.

Never say never!

Though I moved back to Chicago in 2001 for business, something else I swore I would never do, I maintained a healthy distance from my hometown.

Sure I’d visit my family who still lived there, but I’d done that when I lived in LA too. I’d swoop in, have some fun and catch-up time, and swoop out. Nothing serious, no mingling with the natives, no dealing with the you-don’t-belong-here stares and snickers.

But now I participate in two non-profits, one of which is located in my hometown, and the other one is near it. I not only mingle with the natives, but I CHOOSE to hang out with them, and there’s a mutual love fest going on. My teen self can’t believe it! 🙂

#Acceptance Empowers

These are the two non-profits referenced above:


SCBWI


K9 Reading Buddies of North Shore

What’s your relationship to your hometown? Please post your comments below, or put your answers on my Facebook page, or tweet me.

FYI: Please share this letter with others you think would enjoy it.

Purple Passion of the Fortnight:
I wish I grew up in this house!
Purple Carson Mansion


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Do Books Spark Activism in You? Anny’s first panel…

Sorry I’ve been MIA—been prepping for conferences.

I was lucky enough to be asked to speak on a panel at C2E2, Chicago’s Comic Con, about how to use books to spark activism in our kids, our friends, our community, and ourselves.

‘Twas my first time speaking on a panel as a writer. Nervous I was, especially because the moderator declined to give us any talking points or questions in advance, so we had to wing it. Definitely one of those trial by fire experiences.

It had a happy ending. We had a full house, which is rare for the educational panels at the con, and to my utter surprise one of my comments garnered applause.  A short clip of my answer is up on my YouTube channel.

This was the applause getting comment to the above question: Books provide insight into ‘another.’ They let us travel the world so that we can see into others’ hearts—feel their struggles, their joys. They expose us to their beliefs. Through more understanding, we can practice what I call the platinum rule. Help others the way THEY want to be helped, not the way YOU want to be helped. (Throwing money at certain African nations, instead of empowering them on the ground comes to mind as an example.)

I first learned the inaccuracy of the press when I went to China as a kid, before it was westernized at all. It was a traditional Communist country, and therefore something to fear if you believed our government and their press. We were also something they were told to fear, the white devils of democracy.

We weren’t allowed to travel on our own, but instead were escorted by a Communist guide. Mrs. Yung was generous, kind, warm and took excellent care of us. We were mobbed like rock stars everywhere we went because most Chinese had never seen foreigners, let alone American kids. But it was curiosity, not fear, that met us as we traveled around the country. The language barrier prevented much conversation, but their gestures conveyed warmth and friendliness.

What that trip taught me, and hopefully those who met us, was that people are not their government. They are not the propaganda. We have so much more in common than the powers that be want us to believe.

I returned from that trip wishing I could give American students a scholarship to go to China to see for themselves what I’d seen. I was sure it would lead to more unity between our countries. (I felt the same way 3 years later when I went to the Russia.)

But since I can’t send everyone to China, Russia etc., books are the next best thing.

Here’s a short list of graphic novels that shed light on folks you may not know much about. (Because it was a comic con I focused on the graphic format.)

March
Persepolis
American Born Chinese
TomBoy
Ms. Marvel, Kamala Khan, No Normal, Vol 1
Hereville

This list is just a starting point. I’d love to add to this list.

Please send me book titles that sparked empathy and/or action in yourself or someone you know. You can share by replying to this letter, or posting your titles on my Facebook page, or tweeting me.

FYI: Please share this letter with others you think would enjoy it.

#AcceptanceEmpowers

Purple Passion of the Fortnight:
Cobalt Chinese Foo dogs. (At least cobalt has violet tones in it.)


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Take Me To Your Leader…Space Aliens and Acceptance

“One day, we might receive a signal from a planet like this,” Hawking says in the documentary, referring to a potentially habitable alien world known as Gliese 832c. “But we should be wary of answering back. Meeting an advanced civilization could be like Native Americans encountering Columbus. That didn’t turn out so well.” From: Stephen Hawking’s Favorite Places, a new documentary streaming now on the CuriosityStream video service.

Why do we assume aliens are evil?

In some ways it’s hard wired into us. As cave people any unknown species or human could spell trouble. The first time a cave person saw a lion he/she probably became the lion’s dinner. So after a while, a lion was an automatic ‘uh oh, where’s the spear?”
 
This likely happened over and over again every time a cave person encountered a new species, or humans outside of their own group. Thus to survive, we learned to fear unknown people, places and things. And that made sense back then.
 
But it hurts us now. Lions and marauders no longer sneak up on most of us in our daily lives.  There are those who live in war zones or pockets of cities where their survival is in danger almost daily, and sadly, their being on high alert is warranted. (Though for many I talk to who live in Israel for ex, they choose to exert limits on their fear. They avoid areas which may be dangerous, but don’t dwell on the possibility that a scud missile could crash into their house any day. Because fear sucks the joy, the life out of life. And if they’re choosing to live there, they may as well make peace with the situation.)
 
But Fear wants to be expressed no matter what. After all it reasons, it has the most important job of all, keeping us alive. And that’s how it hurts us. Fear runs amok, making acceptance difficult if not impossible.
 
It sees danger in every unknown face we encounter. It blocks us from getting to know each other, from seeing the joy, the peace, and the kindness that exists in most of us.

I prefer to view possible aliens like Neil deGrasse Tyson does.

“In our own civilization we know the consequences of a more advanced culture coming upon a less advanced culture. They get enslaved, they get disease-ridden, and they get put in camps or slaughtered. It disturbs me a bit as an astrophysicist to have we humans portray aliens based on how we know we would treat one another.  Rather than on how they might otherwise treat us given our highest and noblest causes. I don’t fear sending out our return address to aliens. Maybe aliens are beyond us in every way, including their capacity to treat one another kindly.”

And I strive to transcend my fear so that my encounters with new humans are bathed in acceptance and kindness rather than fear. (Though I’m batting about 500 at this right now if I’m lucky. )

What tools/skills do you use to be accepting of people you don’t know, or ideas that are different from your own? ( I can always use more tools in my how to be more accepting toolkit!)

Please share your answers by posting your responses in the comments below or on my FB page.

P.S. I now have a private FB group. If you’re not already a member, feel free to join and post your answers there!

FYI: Please share this letter with others you think would enjoy it.

#CreativityEmpowers
#Acceptance Encourages

Purple Passion of the Fortnight:
Maybe the first aliens will come from this planet and have purple skin! Oh I’ll be jealous about the skin!


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Do You Know How To Use Fear? I’m Still Learning.

“But you must not change one thing, one pebble, one grain of sand, until you know what good {love} and evil {fear} will follow on that act. {Power} must follow knowledge, and serve need. To light a candle is to cast a shadow…”
The Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula K. LeGuin
 
Sometimes I want to give my reptilian brain, the oldest part of our brains, a lobotomy. With no lions or tigers to face down, it feels useless. So it injects fear into all sorts of situations where it doesn’t belong, and makes them ten times worse.
 
If there’s one skill I wish I’d learned as a kid, it’s how to use fear properly. Being scared when confronted by a bear while hiking in the woods is appropriate. Suing a stranger because you’re scared of being broke, or getting your colleague fired because you’re scared they’ll take your job is not ok. Yet it happens everyday.

grizzly-bear

What if we were taught from birth to slow down? What if the golden rule required us to question our actions, to identify whether we were motivated by fear (evil) or love (good), and to act only if the answer was love?
 
For the wizards in Ursula K. LeGuin’s Earthsea, it’s not enough to learn how to control your magic; you must learn how and when to use it as well. This is because abusing magic upsets the natural order of things. When that order, known as The Equilibrium, is disturbed, bad things happen.

wizard-of-eaethsea

Despite being trained to do otherwise, Ged, a powerful young wizard hero, lets his pride and hate unleash a shadow creature that destroys everything that stands between it and killing him.
 
Ged flees from the shadow until he discovers he must face it in order to stop it. Along the way he learns to use magic appropriately, even if it serves others’ needs instead of his own.
 
Books like The Wizard of Earthsea remind us that it’s important to disengage our autopilot, so that we act, rather than react.
 
Have you read other stories that address using fear properly?  If so, please share them with me by commenting upon this letter, or post on my Facebook page, or tweet me.

FYI: Please share this letter with others you think would enjoy it.

Purple Passion of the Fortnight: A glow-in-the-dark purple magic wand! Oh, I want one!!

purple-magic-wand


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Is It Good Luck, Bad Luck or Both?

endings-are-beginnings

Every time a boyfriend would break up with me I’d think, this is it. There’s no one else out there for me. I’ll be alone forever.
 
I’d be sad and lonely for a time, only to wake up one morning and realize I was grateful that he’d broken up with me. That we weren’t a good fit—he’d just figured it out before I had.
 
I mourned the loss of my music career for two years. But finally letting go of being a pop star allowed me to embrace the writer in me. To acknowledge that my home was in the children’s literary world, not in clubs or on the road.
 
The bottom line is that we want to label everything that happens to us as good or bad. But in reality, ‘Good’ things can have unintended ‘bad’ consequences and vice versa. The Ugly One, by Leanne Statland Ellis, explores this notion.

theulgyone-r

When we meet Micay, she needs us to know that a horrible scar runs down the side of her face. She does her best to hide her disfigurement, but still suffers taunts from the boys in her village. An apprentice to a shaman, she fears that most of her people are too disgusted by her hideousness to allow her to heal them.
 
A series of unpredictable and fascinating events transform Micay’s attitude towards her scar. Resentment morphs into gratitude.
 
The Ugly One reminds us that it’s our perception of things that determines their value to us, and perceptions can change.
 
“Learning to live in such a way that nothing is experienced as either an advantage or a disadvantage is the source of enormous empowerment and liberation.”

Do you have a story about an event in your life that seemed like a curse, but then changed into a blessing? Tell me your story by replying to this letter, or posting it on my Facebook page, or tweet me. 

FYI: Please share this letter with others you think would enjoy it.

Purple Passion of the Fortnight:
Fun Peru Facts (The Ugly One is set in Peru)

Print


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What Do You Expect?

when-i-let-go

In my case letting go of myself meant releasing my huge aspirations. Aspirations that I thought were my way in…into connection, into being loved. They were my lifelines. How would I survive without them?

But once I saw what my aspirations had become, I knew I had to let them go. They’d morphed into paralyzing expectations that seemed to move me further from my dream rather than closer to it. And in addition, they prevented me from enjoying the journey.

Letting go also means I have to float in the present, and allow the future to unfold on its own. To accept that I might not become a best-selling author who starts a foundation to serve kids’ needs. That I may give on a smaller scale like George Bailey (It’s A Wonderful Life) rather than on a J. K. Rowling scale. And that that’s okay.

I’m still struggling with this, but I can acknowledge that there’s a certain freedom and relief in casting off expectations in all areas, not just my career.

Lack of expectation makes room for acceptance, for amazing surprises to happen, and removes the possibility of resentment. For we all fall short of our own, as well as others’, expectations at times.

17mqagd77sswwjpg

Deenie, the heroine of Judy Blume’s book by the same name, knows all about failing to meet another’s expectations. The popular girl in school, whose mother expects her to become a model, falls from grace when she’s forced to wear a body brace due to her severe scoliosis. Freed from the expectations of her classmates as well as her mother, Deenie eventually discovers who she can become.

I loved the book when I read it as a kid. Perhaps it’s time to read it again.

Have you let go of a dream, or expectation recently? How has it changed your life? Where/how did you find the courage to let go? Please share your stories in the comments section below, or on my Facebook page.

FYI: PLEASE SHARE THIS POST WITH ANYONE YOU THINK WOULD ENJOY IT.

Purple Passion of the Fortnight:
Floating in the purple present

floating-in-purple-sea

 

 

 

 


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Listening To My Internal GPS

One day while working in the State Department I had a vision. I say vision because I was wide awake.

An old woman in a gorgeous canopy bed just appeared.  She was sobbing. When I approached her, she pleaded with me to not let fear, or anything else stop me from pursuing my goals. That I would succeed if only I jumped in with both feet. When I asked why she cared, she told me she was giving me a second chance to rewrite my past. (Turns out she was me.) The experience gave me the courage to go to LA and pursue acting and music.

At the time it seemed like what I needed to hear.

But now I think my older self was misguided.

unaimed arrow

Maybe using our internal GPS is the best way to approach life goals. You have destinations in mind, and are open to getting re-routed along the way. In addition, if the weather at a certain spot makes it impossible to get there, you change your destination altogether.

Flexibility allows you to swerve around the potholes, while softening the blow if you have to drive over them.

If I have a chance to go back to my younger self again, this is the advice I’d share.

As I embark upon a new journey to published writerland, I’m asking myself to stay open to detours, or new destinations, along the way.

For a good example of flexibility in action, check out The Night Fairy by Laura Amy Schlitz.

NightFAiry

Born a night fairy, Flory’s life takes a drastic turn when she loses her wings. Forced to live on the ground, Flory must learn new skills in order to survive. These include fighting off predators using a thorn sword, and finding food on foot. Ultimately, she decides to change her very nature into that of a day fairy.

Ultimately Flory succeeds because she accepts her new situation, rather than trying to get back to her old life.

Though the book is targeted for younger readers, aged 6-9, I think all of us could learn a thing or two from Flory.

Have you changed course lately? Tell me about it–what you’ve discovered, where you’re headed etc. by replying to this letter, or post your stories on my Facebook page, or tweet me.

Purple Passion of the Fortnight:

purple arrow


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Failing Saved Me

“You don’t know what you are.”
From The Iron Trail by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare.

Iron Trial

Finding my realm hasn’t been easy.

For one thing, I was born into the wrong tribe. Folks who told me that singing and acting were fine as hobbies, but in order to survive, I had to get a real job. BTW, the ‘real job’ was first female President of the United States. (Oh I wish I were kidding about this.)

In addition, my family’s insistence that I’d never make it as a pop star or actress fueled my already strong stubbornness. There was no doubt in my mind that they were wrong. (I’d even planned my Grammy speech. In it I told parents to support their kids’ dreams, instead of imposing their own dreams upon their children.)

So I moved to LA, expecting success to come in short order.

Anny Live

Singing Gonna Get Mine, a ditty I wrote about capital punishment. Just your typical pop song fare. 🙂

I was so busy fighting to make my dream a reality that I refused to see the red flags all around me.

My band told me to stop telling stories on stage, stop trying to provoke conversations or take listeners on an emotional journey and “just sing.”  I never felt comfortable with any of the industry types I met, and don’t get me started on the hideousness of acting auditions.

Sure, I’d traded flat land for mountains, and pines for palm trees, but instead of swimming with birds of a different feather, now I was swimming with sharks. (Great Kevin Spacey flick about the movie biz by the way.)

Ironically, it was failure that allowed me to really see myself for the first time. (Purple swan that I am.) To realize that I had to pick up my bed and leave again.  So I did.

It took a ‘dark night of the soul’ that lasted two years before I accepted that I was a writer. Then a few more years before I found my realm: kidlit.

I’m still stunned at how much I enjoy myself at industry events, or see myself in my fellow writers! Shocked at the encouragement I get to tell intelligent stories with a message. No one wants me to be younger, or dumber. I can just be me!

I learned the hard way that intention works as long as it’s not accompanied by rigid expectation, that you can point your ship towards the shore, but you have to be flexible about how you get there.

Sometimes failing is the best thing that can happen to you.

What has failure taught you? Please share your stories with me by replying to this post, or comment on my Facebook page, or tweet me. 

Purple Passion of the Fortnight:

Purple-Swan


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Do You Keep The Promises You Make To Yourself?

I’ve never been great at the physical plane. Though I’d been blessed with a low-maintenance body, I resented having to take time out to eat or sleep, and avoided sports like the plague. (I managed to come down with a fever every year on Field Day. An all-day track and field competition at my elementary school, and my version of hell.)

anny'n'julie1971

That’s me on the right at 8 yrs old. Stylish wasn’t I?

In 6th grade I read Kurt Vonnegut’s story titled Unready to Wear. That’s where I discovered my hero, Dr. Ellis Konigswasser, the answer to my whines.

Dr. K is sick of having to tend to his body’s needs all the time, so he steps out of it!  His mind spirit just floats in space. When he wants to do something physical, he just rents a body. Brilliant!

Problem was I couldn’t step out of my body, nor could I find the good doctor to help me.

Once my body became higher maintenance, as most bodies do, I got angry. Then I opted for denial.  My ‘old’ body will come back, I insisted.  This is just a phase. NOT!

Once I finally accepted that I’d changed, I made all sorts of promises to myself. . . to eat ‘better,’ to exercise, to do whatever it took to get back to my former glory.

And I broke every one of those promises for a long time.

To put this in context, I’m maniacal about keeping promises to others! I never use the ‘p’ word unless I know, short of an act of God or emergency, that I can keep my promise.  Yet I had no trouble letting myself down time after time. Why?

I’m still not sure, but I think it was due to a lack of self-acceptance. I think I was still channeling Dr. Konigswasser. Still resenting being human because of the needs/frailties that come with it. As the Buddhists say, “What we resist persists.”

That being written, I’m a few years into changing the way I eat.  I’m not perfect at it, and I suspect that even if I were, I still couldn’t capture my ‘former’ self. But I can be a healthier version of Anny, and protect against certain future changes.

Turns out acceptance is powerful mojo.  The more I succeed at my realistic goals, the more empowered I feel, which allows me to keep more promises to myself than ever before. This includes getting back in to the gym after decades of avoiding it. Don’t applaud yet, it’s only been a few weeks.  However, I do like water aerobics! Who knew?

WaterAerobics

Do you keep the promises you make to yourself? If so, what’s your secret? If not, what do you think is holding you back?

Let me know by replying to this post, or put your answers in the comments on my Facebook page, or tweet me. 

Feel free to forward this letter on to anyone you think might enjoy it.

Purple Passion of the Fortnight:

PurpleTreadmill

Wish my gym had one of these!


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