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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Connecting and Celebrating–Congrats, Caitlin!

I have one goal with this blog, and that’s to celebrate my friend, Caitlin LaRue. I am HYPE that she has found an agent that she connects with and shares her vision for her work.

Caitlin and I once shared an agent. Each of us has had a unique, winding journey as we sought publication. But, one thing has been constant–we’ve been there for each other–for the ups, downs, close calls, and everything in between.

I don’t know how I would’ve handled many scenarios without her as my sounding board–and partially hostile texts to stay focused (smile). What started off as an “agent sister” dynamic has become a true and genuine friendship. She has constantly celebrated me, and I’m thrilled at the chance to now celebrate her.

I couldn’t be more happy for Caitlin as she takes these newest steps along her journey. May they be focused, fruitful, and full of all the good that she deserves.

If you haven’t found at least one friend to connect with along your writing journey, I encourage you to do so. We may often write in isolation, but the journey doesn’t have to stay there.

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Have a Heart: Using Children’s Literature to Create More Dynamic and Inclusive Classroom Discussions (Part 1)

On April 28, 2019, I had the honor of doing my very first conference presentation. The occasion: AAIM (Arkansas Association of Instructional Media) 2019. My presentation was well-received (THANK YOU!), so I wanted to share it as a series of blog posts for anyone interested, who wanted a recap, or who might have missed it. I hope these posts encourage you to think about your role in helping to shape our youths’ minds as they learn the truly transformative power of books.

My First Conference: AAIM

What’s on your bookshelf?

A Deceptively Simple Question

“What’s in your wallet?” -Capital One

Commercials have to work extra hard today in order to be memorable. Let’s be honest. Most of us skip them whenever we’re able. However, let’s not overlook the beauty of this question. The basic answer is not truly the goal–money, cash, credit/ debit cards, and many a tiny picture of a loved one if you haven’t gone fully digital.

But that’s truly not the goal. The goal is to get you to question if what’s in your wallet is doing its job. Is it meeting your needs? Is it fulfilling its purpose? And if it’s not, what do you plan to do about it?

Today, my librarian friends, I want to ask a question of you that’s essential to your profession: “What’s on your bookshelf?”

By taking a closer look at the children’s literature on your shelves, you’ll be able to assess if your collections are:

  • Meeting your students’ needs
  • More reflective of your personal tastes than the tastes of your students
  • Providing students with the emotional tools to navigate their environments
  • Instrumental in starting and/or continuing difficult conversations

and of course, helping students to have a heart.

The Beginning

Thanks to constant rezoning and the uptick of fairly homogeneous neighborhoods, children’s literature could be a child’s first encounter with someone from another culture. For many children, those first literary experiences are rooted in fairytales.

**Coming in Part 2: Fairytales, the work of Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop’s, and restructuring your bookshelves**

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Butt in Chair (BIC) & Why it Vexes Me So

“STOP TELLING ME TO SIT DOWN!” is what I internally rage scream whenever I see this bit of writerly advice. Don’t get me wrong. I get it. Of course you need to get your butt in gear in order to actually write.

But, follow me with this, what if with the way my life is set up, those butt-in-chair moments are few and far between? Does that mean I’m not a serious writer? Does that make me a writer of a lesser caliber?

The way my anxiety is set up, I find BIC unnerving. If the words aren’t manifesting on the page (or in my brain for that matter), I may freewrite, doodle, wrestle with other works in progress, or let my mind wander for a bit. If nothing of great magnitude is happening, you best believe my butt is getting up.

Actually sitting my butt in a chair to get some writing done is a luxury I have maybe a handful of times a month. For this reason, I value it immensely. However, it’s just not something that I can regularly do. And before you roll your eyes at me, I do know that I’m being SUPER literal. You do have to put the time in. There’s no getting around that. However, I feel like BIC makes making time to write seem a lot easier than what it is.

My writing time is more WIM—writing in the moment. This consists of making voice notes on my phone, drafting in Google Docs on whichever device is closest, scribbling on scraps of paper, and later assembling everything when I have time (usually when my kids have FINALLY fallen asleep).

At the end of the day, no matter how it gets done, all I hope is that whatever time I have put into writing has made me feel one step closer to achieving my writing goals.

That’s all we can do—do what works best for us. What works best for you?

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Waiting out the Wait

So what are we supposed to do while we wait to hear the fate of our beloved manuscript darlings? What do you do?

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about the publishing business, it’s that publishing is on its own time schedule. Of course we would all like quick responses from agents, editors, and so on, but that’s not how this works. In fact, it seems like the quickest answers are usually the most disappointing. We all have friends of friends or have heard rumors (or experienced) the dreaded “No” that came in less than an hour.

Me? In my free time (HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! I almost rolled off my bed laughing at that.) I’ll try again. In my free time (snicker), what I do to pass the time is simple. Right now, I have a picture book on submission, so my brain is picture book jelly. I have other picture book manuscripts on deck, but I need a recharge my brain. Instead, I write articles. They’re usually creative non-fiction. Sometimes they’re not.

While on submission, I like to feel a rush–like something has a sense of urgency. So, I’ve joined a few Facebook groups and occasionally respond to calls for whatever seems interesting. It keeps my mind off of what I’m truly waiting for. I’m still flexing my writing muscles, and I tend to only respond to paying gigs. Here’s my latest from About Islam: How Do We Value Black Muslim Youth?

So, what’s your creative alternative while you stop waiting?

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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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