Ashley Franklin

Intentional Joy

I was hanging out on Clubhouse a few weeks ago with a group of writers, and this question was brought up:

“How has the pandemic affected your writing?”

[Needless to say, there aren’t many of us who HAVEN’T been affected by the pandemic. Some of us have suffered great personal losses, and many of us have struggled to maintain our mental health.]

As far as writing goes, I think it’s likely the same as anyone else who has had to work from home. It hasn’t been the easiest to establish clear and effective boundaries when it comes to friendships, work, and more. Yet, we’ve got to do what we’ve got to do. What’s the alternative?

What’s amazing is that there are some who have really found a focus and thrived over the past year. I have friends who have loved the transition to working from home. They wish it had always been an option. I also have friends who feel like they are drowning on a daily basis.

Me? I’m all over the place. I’ve worked online as an adjunct for about a decade. No change there. My boys are doing virtual school. My routine of writing could have come to a screeching halt (my pre-pandemic writing happened while they were at school), but it didn’t. At the same time, I still get the nagging feeling that I should be doing more.

How did I keep my writing life from coming to a screeching halt due to the pandemic?

-I stopped waiting for the perfect circumstances to write.

-I did writing tasks in bursts. Example: 30 minutes? I’ll search for wordiness or revise with voice in mind.

-I started 30 minutes of solitary creative time as a family. Example: “Hey, kids! Everyone use your imagination to make something, but you have to do it quietly & in your own section of the room.”

-I was intentional about keeping the joy of writing. I kept in mind that the words would come. Stressing about the how’s and when’s didn’t make them come any faster.

I must be intentional in choosing joy (at least once a day). No matter how my day is going, if I can choose joy just once, it has been a day worth living and not merely existing. It is now a day full of possibilities. When those days add up, it’s much easier for me to be creative.

How will you be intentional with your joy? Think about what this choice will help you to accomplish.

Writing has always brought me joy. I refuse to lose that.

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Why I Write for Kids

I was an only child for the first nine years of my life. I spent much of my early years living with my grandparents.

Like any other kid, I had a lot of toys. And being an only child didn’t stop me from having friends and playing outside. Still, my favorite memories are always the ones where I was cuddled up with a book.

We didn’t have a lot, but I never wanted for a lot. I always had what I needed.

Looking back as an adult and talking things over w/ my grandmother, I was surprised at the reality of things.

Me: “Wow, I guess you could say our family has never had much.”

Mom Mom: “Much?! All we’ve had is our Blackness.”

But for me, that wasn’t the whole truth. I also had books. They sometimes came from thrifts stores, like some of my clothes, but they served their purpose just the same. They kept me covered. They covered me from bad days, disappointments, heartaches, and heartbreaks.

I learned perspective. I learned what it was like seeing myself written on the page. I learned the sadness and contempt of being excluded-more than windows and mirrors, shadows and silhouettes.

Books taught me to love words and the magic they can create. It’s simple when you think of it like that.

What kid doesn’t believe in magic? I guess I write because I want to help more kids see the magic within themselves.

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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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