Ashley Franklin

"Every idea ain't a good idea!"

I’m not sure which older person in my life said this to me, but I certainly remember hearing it more than once. I also know that it rings very true.
While we are busy Story Storming our hearts out over the last week, let’s not get bogged down in the details. It’s highly unlikely that you’re in love with every idea that you’ve jotted down. I’m certainly not. But, here’s the thing:

  • I don’t expect to love every idea.
  • I don’t expect to use every idea.
  • I don’t even expect every idea to be good.
  • I do expect to hold on to my list for quite some time.

What’s the point of holding onto ideas you’re not swooning over? Some ideas may merge, mutate, or morph into something really great. Some ideas may springboard you into writing a great project that you had never really considered.
Don’t overthinking thinking at the last minute.

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When Distraction becomes Fruitful

I have focused goals for this year. It took me less than a week to get distracted. To be fair, I was only distracted for a few days. I saw a call for children’s TV pitches, and one of sought after themes just so happened to align with an idea I’d been fooling around with.
Do I know anything about pitching a children’s TV series? Nope! Did I let that stop me from seriously considering this? Nope! I won’t keep you in suspense. I decided against actively pursuing the opportunity.
The surprise? I got my idea out of my head and it actually started to take shape (and make sense)! I’ve always considered fresh looking at something with fresh eyes as meaning taking a break from it and returning or having someone else take a look at it. Today, my fresh eyes came in the form of envisioning my idea in a different medium. I actually visualized it. (I oddly stared at my TV while it was turned off, but what works; right?)
I can proudly say that I’m more motivated than ever to continue writing on this #MuseMonday.

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Storystorm: PiBoIdMo 2.0

storystorm_participant Today is the first day of StoryStorm. You may be more familiar with its previous name: PiBoIdMo. Tara Lazar is once again bringing the goods, and this time, with the move of the initiative from its November time slot, we can all start off our year in the best possible way: with hopeful creativity and a supportive community.
Sure, StoryStorm is for writers, but non-writers can benefit from the principles. Write down a bunch of things that interest you. Write down one thing a day. Here’s another twist: take the time to write down something that makes you happy every day for a month. Keep these items in a jar and refer back to them on a day when you’re down or when you’re in a funk.
Really, whatever you decide to do or not do this year, make it count. Don’t shortchange yourself. There’s only one you, and 2016 (if nothing else) taught us that how long we have on Earth is unknown. Do what makes you happy. Let the smile on your face be so genuine that it infects others. Be the light in the world you want to see. If we all did that, imagine how bright things would be.

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My battle with rhyme

I have some pretty random writing goals. Yes, I primarily want to write picture books, but i have a pretty big writing goal that includes that. I want to get one of everything published. I want to publish a MG, NF, an article, etc. I’d even wanted to get an academic article, but they keep switching up APA on me, and I’m too lazy for that.
What does that have to do with anything? Writing a rhyming picture book is on my list of writing goals. I am proud to say that I’m getting better with it.No, really!
I went from an okay story with erratic rhyme. Then I had a pretty good story, but the rhyme seemed forced. Now I have a pretty good story, but the rhyme is leading the story too much.
That looks like progress to me.
So, what did I do to fix my most recent issue with rhyme? I first sent my manuscript to Rate Your Story. Their feedback is extremely helpful. Then, I read my manuscript one time and sat it aside. I wrote down (yes, by hand) what story elements I needed to tighten and brainstormed some solutions. After that, I wrote a new manuscript. I pretty much only kept two characters from the original. Now, I’ve sent this most recent manuscript to my critique partner. Where’d I get this particular critique partner? He’s actually one of my favorite partners I found through the KidLit411 Manuscript Swap group on Facebook.
Make those connections, my friends, and keep on tweaking those manuscripts.

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Writing Distractions

As a writer who wants to do big things, it’s easy to become distracted. I’m sure I’m not alone. We’re supposed to build an author platform, right? That means I need to be on social media, right? We should always work to hone our craft, right? That means I need to take more classes. Writing in isolation is garbage. That means I need to be an active participant in the writing community, right?
It’s really easy to get caught up in the non-writing side of writing. I just recently had to check myself about this. I love contests. I love interacting. I love a great deal of the extras. However, if I’m not being productive as a writer (you know, with an actual increase in my word count to show for it), I have to be honest with myself about not being on task. Then I have to fix it.
 

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Evaluating My Own Privilege as an Online Educator

As dialogues across college campuses seek to heal the divide that exists as we anticipate what may come as president-elect Trump prepares to take office, I have done nothing additional for my students. I haven’t held any additional office hours. I haven’t altered my lessons plans to include additional talks on diversity. I haven’t engaged with students on a one-on-one basis to help them navigate their emotional responses.
While I applaud my professor friends and college professors across the country who are doing these things, I simply haven’t had to. It’s not that I don’t care. In fact, quite the opposite is true. You see, I’m an online instructor and there is simply no room for me to do these things.
Not all online institutions are the same. I’ve worked for a few. On many occasions, the curriculum is pre-determined. Yes, I can add my two-cents from time to time, but the ability to do so is largely dependent on the course that I am teaching. If I were teaching political science, history, or may even communication, I may be able to speak on the current political climate. However, if I am teaching a course with a stringent curriculum that focuses only on texts and topics that were previously approved, my hands are pretty much tied.
Naturally, I want to let my students know that they are in a safe space. I tell them this every term when I offer my discussion board expectations. In fact, the discussion board may be my only loophole. If a student poses a question in regards to post-election uncertainties, I can respond guilt free. Otherwise, all I can do is hope that my silence does not speak volumes. My only hope is that my students don’t take my silence for indifference.
My students can look at my profile and see that I am an African-American Muslim. Clearly, this election has affected me. It has affected many who are marginalized and underrepresented.  Working in the online environment as afforded me convenience, but I have also sacrificed visibility.  Unless I am feeling extra profound and make a video to expound upon something within the curriculum or schedule a Skype session for a student who is particularly struggling, my students will see my profile picture, and that’s it. That’s the extent of my visibility.
My on-campus colleagues, however, are in the trenches. They are face to face with students who want answers, acceptance, and understanding. Traditional students are typically younger. My students are mostly older adults with work experience. More often than not, they are parents or grandparents. They are accustomed to life bringing the unexpected and sometimes inexplicable. A 17 or 18-year-old does not usually come with the same degree of seasoning.
Simply because of demographics and course structure, I have been issued a platter of privilege. I don’t have to address or heal the hurts of my students. I don’t have to stay at the office longer in order to accommodate their needs. They don’t present these types of needs to me.
Plenty of my colleagues in traditional classroom settings do have to do these things. Otherwise, they’ll be teaching to a disjointed and disheartened bunch.  I envy just how life-changing they can be at a time like this.
And while my voice may not ring across a classroom of hope-thirsty young adults, I have not accepted this as a time to remain silent outside of the classroom. You see, these issues were not born in the classroom, and that’s not the sole place where they will be fixed.
Just because you have a privilege pass doesn’t mean you have to accept. This is the point that I want to stress to my fellow online colleagues. What we can do in the classroom may be limited when compared to what our colleagues working in traditional environments can do, but that does not mean that we can’t do anything. Our lives, just like our students’ lives extend beyond the classroom. We have a voice, and we can find spaces to use it.

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I'm published, but it wasn't for Kidlit

So how does an aspiring Kidlit author end up with an article published in a magazine? It’s simple: I needed something to do while waiting to hear back from my picture book manuscripts. I’ve said before that there is a lot of waiting is involved, and sometimes that waiting can result in a no. Trust me, if I’d received a solid yes by now, you would have already heard about it.
Beyond trying not to dwell on waiting to hear word back from my picture book manuscripts, I wanted to say something. Everyone has a post-election opinion. I had something to say too. I wanted to say it. It honestly helped me to collect my own thoughts.
I feel lucky. That was my first-ever article pitch, and it was accepted. 2016 has been a rough year for me, but it has definitely had its moments of greatness. I’ll be sure to recap as we come closer to the end of the year.
If you haven’t read it and are curious, here’s my article on why I refuse to fearfully remove my hijab.
 

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What now? Promise to keep pushing!

I’ll get right to it. Many of us are upset or downright distraught over the election results. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. We have that right. Here is my only plea:

Let’s not become paralyzed in our fears or frustrations.

Continue to do what it is you always do, but be more mindful. If you’re a writer, write the world you want to see. Write the normal that you wish for and make it the new normal. Strive to get marginalized voices out of the margins.
If you’re a parent, help your kids to recognize the beautiful array of people and cultures and lifestyles that call this country home.
Overall, everyone can show compassion. Show love. Let’s keep it real. If you honestly dislike a group of people, find out why. Could it be that you don’t really know any of them as individuals? Could it be that you fear what you don’t know or understand? Could it be that you fear change?
I find it a good practice to check myself. Maybe that’s something each of us can do. Let’s check ourselves. Check our biases and fears. When we learn and accept more about ourselves, it may be easier to love and accept others.
Keep pushing to be great, and as a collective, we might just achieve that greatness in America that we seek. I promise I will do my part. How about you?
 

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I'm not doing NaNoWriMo, and that's okay.

I had been going back and forth about NaNoWriMo. I love the solidarity that it brings. I love the fire it lights under people. I’ve participated twice.
Initially, I was going to participate just because it’s time for it. I realized that’s not a good enough reason. My current writing goals aren’t leading towards a full-length novel right now. What am I currently doing?

  1. Picture book revisions
  2. Early reader revisions
  3. Developing a chapter book
  4. Taking the CBA’s Chapter Book Alchemist course

I think that’s plenty. I love the dependability of NaNoWriMo. Hey, I may even participate next year if the timing aligns with my writing goals. As is the strategy for much of this journey, I’ll just wait and see what happens.
If you are participating, best of luck to you! NaNoWriMo is everything you make it out to be. The more effort you put into it, the more you will get out of it. You can do it!
If you’re not participating, what are your writing goals for November?
 
 

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Moving. My Birthday. My 1st Sockibration.

We’re moving! Louisiana has tried to drown us for the last time. Who moves on their birthday, right? Hey, life happens. That’s the wonderful thing about it. It’s still happening for me. I am 32 today. Little kid me would be absolutely perplexed if we met face to face. My life is not going at all the way she planned out. I am not working as a famous journalist, living in a huge city, free of kids and all things boring. But guess what, there are a few things little kid me hadn’t considered:

  1. I genuinely hate big cities.
  2. I love writing fiction.
  3. I am good at working from home.
  4. I’m not as bad as I thought at this whole mom/wife thing.

Okay, 4 is still debatable on most days, but whatever.
I may not be where I want to be financially or physically right now, but I am working to be in a good mental space. What’s my birthday wish? To be content. To be better at appreciating the little things and to see how big their value can actually be.
Speaking of little things, that leads me to Sockibration. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and getting to know wonderful people in many online interaction. Particularly, one of my coworkers from a college I still work for is AMAZING! We bonded over our random, and often ridiculous for no reason, life experiences. Despite now knowing each other for years, on Monday we discovered our birthdays were just days apart. That’s how I was introduced to Sockibration. She sends socks to her friends in celebration of her birthday, friendship, and solidarity. It is one of the most random things that I’ve ever been a part of, but I like it. Here are the socks:
sockibration-socks
 
 

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