Ashley Franklin

I write. I teach. I mom.

Yup, that’s pretty much what I do. I’m not new to blogging, but I am in the newest phase of my writing journey. During those moments when I daydreamed about being a writer, I never thought that I’d try writing children’s literature. To be fair, this writing daydream changed a few times.
Version 1: I’ll write a bestseller and become a household name for my wonderfulness.
Version 2: I’ll write something super deep and it’ll be in college campuses across the United States.
Version 3: Maybe I’ll just try to get a book of poetry together.
Version 4: Hey, I love reading to my kids. Who doesn’t love picture books?
Clearly, we’re going with Version 4.The question still stands: Who doesn’t love picture books?
So, thank you in advance for continuing my journey with me. I’m sure we will have a few laughs along the way. There will likely be frustrations, but there will always be hope. In my opinion, you can’t go wrong with that.

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Living with the “What-ifs”

Previously, we discussed acknowledging the what-ifs–acknowledging their existence without letting them ruin your day (or peace of mind for that matter).

But what if, no matter what you do, you can’t shake them? Live with them! As a creative, your work will never please everyone:

  • Different strokes for different folk.
  • Everything ain’t for everybody.
  • You can’t please everyone.

I’m sure that at least of those resonates because they are absolutely true!

If no one has told you this yet today, let me be the first: “You are an amazing creator. I admire your determination to fine-tune your craft and see its success no matter what.” 

Now that that’s out of the way, let me also say this: You’re human, and it’s okay to feel. Your feelings are valid. You’re not being sensitive. You’re not being silly. You are entitled to feel how you feel about your creative process and your journey. I do have this one request: Don’t dwell on feelings that hinder your creative output. 

Jealous? Sad? Overwhelmed? Cautiously excited? Hunny, have ALL the feels. You’re not plastic, and you shouldn’t be expected to behave like you are. Find your trusted friends and companions, and vent away. Just don’t let social media make a fool out of you. (That’s a topic for another day.)

Personally, I’m living my best creative life when I’ve allowed myself to just live–feel all the feelings, have all the experiences, be the me who I need to be at that moment–sad Ashley, happy Ashley, silly Ashley, hopeful Ashley, etc.

Sometimes, it is easier to acknowledge the what-ifs and let them go than others. During those times when those nagging questions of validation and success aren’t easily shaken, live with them. Make small goals that you can check off as you work towards maintaining your creativity.

What if nobody comes to my book signing?

(What can I do to build a buzz? All I can do is my part.)

What if my book doesn’t make it on to any lists?

(My work is #1 to someone. All I can do is keep creating.)

Don’t let the what-ifs keep you from being your best creative self. If you can’t brush them off with a “whatever,” acknowledge the core of what they’re getting at and use that as fuel to continue on your journey. Always forward.

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Writing Rules and You

I know you’ve seen them. We all have. Everybody and their uncle (momma, cousin, auntie, sister-in-law twice removed) has a list of rules they uphold to be true of any writer.

 

I’ve come to give you my professional opinion: It’s a load of crap.

Now, just wait a minute and hear me out. Like most things in the writing business, those writing rules are completely subjective. To clarify, I’m not talking about craft rules specific to genres. You need those. Even if you plan on writing the next best thing and want to shake things up a bit, you should probably know the rules you wish to break.

Those lists of writing rules are great if you take them with a grain of salt and acknowledge not everything works for everybody. On the other hand, they do become problematic when you take them as law and they make you feel like less of a writer.

I encourage you to create your own list of rules and tweak them as you discover what does and doesn’t work for you. After all, writing is a process. Treat it as one.

I’m including my personal list of writing rules that work for me. Feel free to share your own.

My Writing Rules (for me!)

  1. Don’t write every day. Give the ideas and words time to simmer in my mind.
  2. Remember Rule #1 and don’t beat myself up if I don’t write for a spell. (Life happens! Just keep thinking.)
  3. Only revise as I write if I leave TrackChanges on.
  4. Save different versions of manuscripts by date.
  5. Stop acting like I don’t need an outline. I always eventually do, even if it’s a reverse outline.
  6. If writing seems like a chore, see if there’s something in the manuscript that’s keeping me from wanting to dive back in.
  7. At least read a writing blog or article if I’m wasting time on social media.
  8. Grammarly. Use it.
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Acknowledging the “What-ifs”

I love a great line, and I’ll never forget this gem from my mother-in-law. Despite my (at the time) toddler being mid-meltdown, she offered him this advice: “Don’t let the devil ruin your day!”

I cannot explain to you how hard I laughed at the time.

whatifs

The same goes for the what-ifs. The what-ifs? That’s what I call those pesky questions that nag us when we are in a writing slump, the doubts that have us believing that we’re imposters and aren’t good writers, the negative thoughts that tell us our WIP is hot garbage, etc. (And yes, this is what they look like in my head.)

What if my critique partners hate my book?

What if my revisions are making my manuscript worse?

What if I never get an agent?

What if I don’t get any interest while on submission?

What if nobody buys my book?

Don’t let the what-ifs ruin your day. And definitely, don’t let them ruin your dreams.

Do me a favor. The next time you’re being plagued by the what-ifs, go ahead and respond with a “Whatever!” Then, go ahead and keep pushing towards your writing goals.

Keep writing. I know I will.

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Critique Cheat Sheet

frustrated woman

In the most recent installment of things that I’m doing instead of rebuilding my website (Don’t judge me.), I made a Critique Cheat Sheet! Here it is as a Google Doc.

So, why did I make it? I’ve been teaching at the college level for nearly ten years, and it never fails that peer reviews/ critiques get the most gripe from students. I thought it was just a student thing. Then, I started doing a bit of my own writing. Honestly, I was shocked when I noticed that many of my writing peers aren’t all that fond of it either.

While it’s totally possible to critique your own work, there is something undeniably magical about getting another perspective on your work. There’s the benefit of another point of view–someone bringing a different and fresh perspective thanks to their unique experiences. You get to see how someone relates and reacts to what you have written. This is true for academic and non-academic writing.

I believe that part of the anxiety surrounding critiques is not knowing where to start and not wanting to hurt someone’s feelings. (Hmmm…”How Not to Be in Your Feelings During a Critique” will likely be my second Critique Cheat Sheet.)

I hope that this first Critique Cheat Sheet helps to ease some of those anxious feelings. Let me know if you do decide to give it a try!

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Why I Wrote about My “Failed” Ramadan

Yesterday, I had a piece published in Romper that discussed my first “failed” Ramadan. You can find it here.
We are naturally inclined to hide our faults. After all, we want others to think of us fondly or in a positive manner. Then why did I choose to discuss the time when I did not complete my Ramadan fast as I’d expected? Easy: I thought that maybe it could help someone.
No one wants to fail at anything. No Muslim wants to have an unsuccessful Ramadan. It can be an isolating feeling. After all, Ramadan isn’t supposed to be easy, right? Eh–not so much. Ramadan shouldn’t feel like an impossible task. If there is something causing Ramadan to feel particularly cumbersome for you, I encourage you to reach out to someone. Find that auntie you trust. Consult with your imam. Seek those who are more knowledgeable than you are, and make dua.
While I may not have been able to successfully fast for my second Ramadan, I didn’t feel like a failure thanks to having a support system.
For my fasting brothers and sisters in Islam, during this blessed month of fasting, I pray that your fast is accepted and that you feel the love of your community. Ramadan Mubarak.
And to my friends of no faith or other faiths, thank you for the “Happy Ramadan” messages.
Much love to all!

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My first time at Moms Group (aka the time someone else’s kid peed in public)

There’s a group for everything on Facebook. We all know that. That’s how I found this local Moms Group. I’ve seen their events for quite some time, but I always had other obligations. This past Wednesday, my time had finally come. I really had no excuse. The weather was okay. They were meeting at a park that we always go to. It was going to be over just before naptime (or…the time period I always hope a nap is taken).
So, we went! We were about thirty minutes late because my 3yo didn’t want to put on pants, but we made it nevertheless.
Y’all know people are not my thing. I always have to mentally amp myself up for social settings.
Me to Me: You’ve got this! You can do it. You’re amazing!!! It’s only two hours, you can talk for that long. Okay, look. Just find a couple of people to attach yourself to until it’s over.
I found “my people.”  That pretty much means my kid did something weird as we were walking up to them, I cracked a joke about it, and they laughed. That’s all it took. They were my people. They had no choice.
It was actually nice to swap mom stories of praise and woe while making sure our kids didn’t trample each other. They even had genuinely weird this-can’t-be-my-life-I’m-just-trying-to-make-it-through-the-day stories.
It was perfect. My 3yo was even behaving pretty well despite probably being close to needing a nap due to his nighttime TV sneaking. Nothing could go wrong, or so I thought.
But then it did. But not for me.
I looked up from my mini mom circle to see a little boy under the slide stand, twisting from side to side, peeing. A few of us moms who noticed scrambled to get other moms’ attention, as THIS KID HAD RANGE. Kids were giggling, and I was the lucky one to get the attention of the mom engrossed in conversation.
“Umm…excuse me. Is that kid over there, who’s peeing everywhere, yours?”
I can’t accurately describe the horror on her face, the yelling that followed, or the speed in which she packed up and left.
I can happily say that my 3yo has never done that, but he has done his own fair share of cringe-worthy things. It was great to see other moms having a crap day and life still going on. I needed that reminder. It was worth conquering my anxiety and being social.
Who knows. A story may even come from this.
 

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Kitchen Conversations (for Char and Michelle)

This was one of the first pieces that I wrote that I was proud of. It’s not something that I’d intended to send to an agent or a magazine. It’s something that I wrote for me. I wrote it to see if I could. I’d been writing academic papers for so long, I wanted to see if I had lost my creativity.
If you followed my other blog back in the day, you’ve seen this before. Why have I chosen to share it here? Though I wrote it just a few years ago, the first people that I shared it with have both passed away within the last couple of months. Both of them had encouraged me to write a follow-up, but you know how it goes. Busy, busy, busy.
Michelle and Char, you both believed in me when I wasn’t sure that I believed in myself. I’ll never forget that. It never crossed my mind that neither of you would be here this time next year with a copy of my book in your hands. Besides, y’all were around my age. It never crossed my mind that we didn’t have plenty of time.
But y’all fussed at me for not having written a follow-up time and time again. I’m sorry. I’m revisiting (and sharing) the story here. I’m mentally getting back into this space so that I can hold up my end of the bargain and write a follow-up, like y’all asked. I don’t know how long it will take me to write Part 2 of “Kitchen Conversations,” but I will start it today. Forgive me for my tardiness.
Make time for what and who matters. Love others. Love yourself. Love your craft. Take nothing for granted.

KITCHEN CONVERSATIONS

If home is where the heart is, that heart beats in the kitchen. Every morning, breakfast came with a side of questions. This one also came with crayons.
“Mama, how come we don’t match?” Mama laughed. He loved her laugh. It reminded him of the sound his trucks made when he revved them up on the kitchen floor.
“What do you mean, baby?”
He took a crayon out of the box and sat it on top of his picture. “There is one brown crayon in my box, and only one of us is that brown”
“Let me see what you’ve got here.” Mama looked down at the white piece of paper with the family drawn on it. He was right. Only one of them was the color of the crayon.
“I’ll have to change my picture, or it won’t be right.” He looked sad.
There was no room for tears at the breakfast table. Mama slowly stirred milk into her coffee.
“What’s your favorite color?” she asked.
“Green!”
“Green is a good color. It’s things that grow, things of life. But now brown, that’s for roots, foundation—solid things. Those are the things that give you a good start.”
“What does coffee help you start?”
“My day!” There was that laugh again.
“Why don’t you measure the milk?”
“I know how I want it to taste. The lighter the color, the sweeter it tastes. Still, no matter how much milk I add doesn’t change the fact that this is a cup of coffee. It’s the same with people. We all have our flavor, but we’re people just the same.”
He thought about his family– how different they looked, how different they acted, and how much fun they had when they were together. He smiled. “I don’t have to change my picture.”
“No—just your box of crayons.”
Breakfast was over, but that’s what happens when you stay up late playing video games. She didn’t see her mom or brother, but she was happy to find her aunt in the kitchen. Her aunt was amazing! With skin the color of sand, eyes that shined like steel drums, and clothes as bright as rare tropical flowers, Auntie Celise wasn’t just from the islands, she was them. Auntie had style!
Picture day was tomorrow, and she had no idea how to ask Auntie to fix her hair. Cornrows, afro, twists, ponytail, braids? She just didn’t know. Most of the girls in her class wore their hair bone-straight. That was going to take some effort. Overwhelmed, she let her head fall onto the table with a thud.
“Girl, what’s wrong with you?” Auntie asked, putting down her magazine.
The girl lifted her head.  “I hate my hair! Can you just make it super straight like everyone else’s?”
Auntie reached over and ran her fingers through the girl’s hair. “Ooh I know what you mean. How I hate having hair with so much personality! Who would want hair that stands up to the Sun with sass, curls and twists to defy the bravest of combs, or threads into designs that would make a spider jealous? Go on and get my flat iron. I’ll hook you up.”
The girl didn’t move. “Let me think about it some more.”
Dinner had come and gone by the time Papa walked through the door. He found the two of them in the kitchen with their evening treats.
“Can we get an allowance like our friends do?” they asked sounding hopeful.
“Why hello to you too! Allowance? I’m allowing you to eat up the rest of the ice cream. How’s that?” said Papa.
The four eyes looking up at him from two bowls quickly looked back down.
“Be about your business!” he said, loosening his tie. “Keep that in mind, and money will always come your way.” It seemed like a new twist on the money doesn’t grow on trees speech was coming. “What do you need money for anyway?” asked Papa.
“We’re saving for a new video game and some new crayons,” she said.
Papa placed a quarter and a dollar on the table. “Which do you want?”
The boy was faster and got the dollar. She cut her eye at him with a look of disgust that comes naturally to big sisters.
“When you’re about your business, you never lose focus of what’s important.” He kissed their foreheads. “I’m about to run to the store to grab a few snacks. Either of you want to come along to pick up something?”
The boy hopped off his chair and ran to the door. Papa smiled at the girl still sitting at the table.
“You are about your business,” he said as he patted her on the shoulder. He walked over to the boy and patted his head. “You, son, have a lot to learn. You two go ahead to bed. The kitchen is closed.”
 
 

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On being a mommy writer

Time is never on my side. Kids always need something. That’s what they do. That’s their job. Students always need something. That’s what they do. That’s my job. House duties never end. It’s not like I can afford a maid, so that’s my job too. Hubby helps out a great deal. Bless his heart, but there are still some days I wish I could shut out the real world and dive into the worlds I’ve created—just live the words, be with my characters as I continue to write life into them.
Times when I can solely spend dedicated to writing (that’s not in the wee hours of the morning) comes few and far between. I can’t express the joy I have when my husband announces that he’s packing up the kids so I can have a writing weekend.
But what do I do in between those writing weekends? Do I just not write? Do I look longingly at my notebooks, wishing that I could run away with them? Nope! Well…not all the time.
I use my cell phone. I’ve downloaded Google docs to my phone and I use it to continue working on manuscripts during time sucks–car line, doctor’s office, waiting for pots to boil, etc.
For bursts of ideas, I use the notes app. Finish a draft while on the go? I email it to my printer so it’s waiting for me when I get home. See something inspirational while I’m out? I snap a pic and email it to myself. Of course, I still carry around a composition book if I know I’ll be sitting somewhere for a while (like my kid’s taekwondo lesson) and I’m in the early stages of drafting. I have a big purse for that.
As writers, many of us have different obligations. We may not always have the time we want to write, but we should always try to best use and manage the time that we have.
 
 

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A girl now has an agent

Yeah, that’s right. I officially have a new agent. The whole process of initial querying to phone calls to stressing out and losing sleep over the decision took less than a month.
I know being in the query trenches can be time consuming, so I was shocked at how quickly this happened. I was honestly just hoping to find an agent within six months.
This time around, I was more prepared. Since this would be my second agent, I knew exactly what I wanted and didn’t want. My list of questions was detailed and reflected my writing and career goals.
I ended up with three offers out of the five agents I queried. Narrowing it down to two was ridiculously hard.
So, who is my new ridiculously fantastic agent? No other than Kathleen Rushall at Andrea Brown Lit.
::Happy Dance::
 
 
 
 

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My only resolution: Try not to stress

I am a high-stress person. I’ve been that way my entire life. My mom has always referred to it as my ability to predictably “get easily worked up.” I accepted it as just how I am and didn’t really pay it any mind until I hit my 30s.
Boy, the 20s can make you feel invincible. The 30s will snap you back to reality like “Nah, my dude.” I stress to the point of having chest pains. Where they do that at? Not cool.
Are there things I want to accomplish in 2018? Of course! I want to be healthier. I want to find an agent. I want to sell another book. I want a better work/life balance. I want to not stress about finances, health insurance, potential car trouble, how many words I can get written in a day/ month/ week, so on and so forth.
But, I can only control so much. As long as I’m trying my best–really putting in work–I need to ease up on myself. I also need to recognize the difference between stressing over something and worrying about something. I think I somersault past worry and perfectly land on stress every single time.
So this year, I’m going to try to stress less. It may be by exercising more, drinking more tea, praying more, doing yoga…I don’t know. All I know is that I’m going to actively work at it, and that’s good enough for me.

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