Ashley Franklin

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 little Aesop, a Bit of Thunder & Self-Actualization of my Writer Self

I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before: my mom was all about representation when I was younger. Sure I lived in a predominantly Black neighborhood and attended a predominantly Black church, but school was on the other end of the spectrum.
I was in one of those gifted and talented programs, and there were only a handful of people of color in it at any given time. Clearly I learned a great deal, but there were also a few experiences that clearly stand out from the rest.

  1. My third grade math teacher was a Black woman. I don’t remember her last name, but I remember her first name was Bathsheba. She probably didn’t know it, but she made my day–Every. Single. Day. Her being brown made me feel less awkward, less alone. Seeing her made me feel like maybe I could grow up and feel like I could have an important job too. Maybe I could even be teacher.
  2. In my elementary years, I was also introduced to the first Black characters in a school-assigned book. My English teacher was white, and I couldn’t tell you her name now if my life depended on it. But I am thankful for her. Having followed the traditional route of reading what most kids read, what you naturally assume are books featuring non POC–Where the Red Fern Grows, James and the Giant Peach, Charlotte’s Web, Bridge to Terabithia, etc., imagine my surprise when we started reading Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. Brown characters! Brown characters all around! I guess this class was also when I had my first of what we would now call “woke” experience. I was surrounded by white people and was reading about ill-intentioned white people. It was a new layer to the feeling of difference. But, I was reading about brown people. It was also the first book I remember making me cry. It was also important because it was the first POC book that I remember beyond Aesop’s fables. Yes, it was also dated, but it made me feel relevant.
  3. The first two events sparked something another first-the first time I changed my mind about what I could be when I grew up. Maybe I could write too. I vaguely remember that we had a reaction assignment. I remember writing about slaves. My Uncle read it before I turned it in, and I remember him asking if I’d really written it because it was really good. My teacher also thought it was good. Maybe that’s when I first became a writer. It just took me until my 30s to remember my purpose and step back into it.
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That weird space between goals and dreams

As a writer, I feel like this is my permanent home. I’m constantly somewhere between goal-chasing and dreaming. I haven’t really given this limbo-like space much thought, so maybe I’ll have a bit more clarity by the time I’m done this post.
Perhaps what fills this space is waiting–waiting to hear from critique partners, my agent, an editor, a publisher, my agent again, etc. For someone whose mind is constantly going a mile a minute and who is so impatient she yells at the microwave to “Friggin get a move on!”, to say that this is a learning experience and a test in patience is certainly an understatement.
What do I do as I strive to reach my dreams of being a full-time writer a reality? I wait. Honestly, I write more. I whine to my husband. I strategize my next move. I feel like this is an impossible goal, and then I tell myself to knock if off and keep pushing.
Maybe those strange little dudes were on o something with that whole “whistle while you work” thing. Maybe small distractions that you can do while you work at a larger task are ideal. Whatever the case may be, I know I have to keep at it.
 

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Say it: I'm a writer!

I was one of those people who wouldn’t come out and say I wanted to be or was a writer when I first started. I know I”m not the only one who does this. Why is that? We live in a society that thrives off of titles and recognition. We celebrate our differences (well…sometimes), so why is it so hard to yell it to the world?

I’M A WRITER!

Is it because we expect some snarky remark like the following:

  • Well, who isn’t?
  • Aren’t we all?
  • How’s that going to pay the bills?
  • Well, where’s your book?

Well, writer friend, let me tell you something: You are a writer. If you write, have writing goals, are working on your craft, etc. you are a writer. Don’t let anyone tell you anything different!
Seriously, it takes a lot of heart to become a writer. This journey does not come pre-paved or even cobbled. Many of us wander around getting, our feet and legs getting cut with rocks and sticks as we move forward in faith. Yes! We have faith in our writing, even if it may waiver from day-to-day. What we must keep on a daily basis is faith in ourselves. My journey may not be the same as yours, and your journey may not be the same as the next person’s. It doesn’t matter. Own your journey and enjoy it.

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Writer's Life: Waiting, more waiting, and then anxiously waiting.

Hey, I’m all about honesty. If you’ve read even one of my blog posts before, you should be well aware of that. So, now I want to have another one of our good old sit-downs where we take a moment and I hit you with a truth bomb.
I am no less anxious now than I was when I didn’t have an agent. I still check my emails an unnatural amount of times during the day.
I know that may seem a little hard to believe, but it’s 100% true. How can this be? It’s simple. Having an agent has opened the doors for my work to be seen by editors and publishing houses that I typically would not have access to. (Yay!) Having an agent gives me some muscle, if you will, a support system, and a sounding board.
Having an agent has not given me access to a magical fast lane in which my work ascends to the top of an editor’s email queue and said editor then falls over herself at the chance to bask in the glow of my manuscript.
Nope! I still anxiously await to get good news. Even the good news that I wait for has changed. While I would love to only get showered with contracts, it is also a treasure when an editor takes some time out to offer notes on a manuscript and/or even agrees to review it if I’m interested in making some changes.
Waiting is hard at any stage of the writing journey. If it helps, know that you’re not waiting alone. And while you are waiting, use your time wisely. Hone your craft. Experiment with your writing. Do a bit of reading. Take a class. Take a minute away from writing and live. (Yes, imagine the fresh influence on your writing when you’ve had an awesome experience.)
What’s really helped me? I’ve buddied up with other writers who are pretty much on the same leg of this journey, and help encourage each other. We vent to each other. We support each other. We pretty much remind each other that we’re not alone. In all honesty, they are my anxiety cushion so that when I reach out to my agent, I seem like I have it halfway together.
Find a buddy, and buckle up. The path to publication is an unpredictable ride.

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On writing when inspired

I know that everything ain’t for everybody. I also know that we writers have our own methods that we use when working in or craft. Still, I am often left somewhat perplexed when people say they only write when they inspired.
First off, I imagine them staring out the windows of log cabins, waiting for nature to show some sort of sign before they put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. I see their faces light up as a majestic bird swoops down from the sky and hovers effortlessly right in front of a window while an assortment of animals exits the woods, congregating to awe at its beauty as well. Aha! Inspiration has hit, and the writers’ minds are now flooded with ideas that will certainly bloom into masterpieces. The heavens have provided divine guidance, after all.
I know that’s a bit much, but that’s how my mind works. Personally, I think that my writing depends more on my motivation than inspiration. To me, they’re totally different.When I’m motivated to write, I have clear-cut goals I’m trying to reach. I’m trying to be on somebody’s bookshelf. I need to write to do that. Uh-oh, an unexpected expense popped up. I need to rekindle the flames of one of my freelance writing gigs. See, that’s concrete. If inspiration happens to kick in at some point, that’s fine, well, and dandy.
I honestly can’t trust myself to solely rely on divine inspiration to write. I would be sitting around like “Oh wait. Was that it? Was that a sign? Hmm…maybe tomorrow the sign will be clearer.” I’d get nowhere.
This morning, I’m neither motivated nor inspired to cook breakfast. Hopefully, my husband feels one of them. I mean, seriously….Who can write on an empty stomach?

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Look, Ma, that boy is brown like me!

We were watching an episode of Goldie and Bear on Netflix yesterday. Both my 5yo and 2yo love the show. This particular episode had Jack and Jill at a sleepover with Goldie and Bear. Before I’d even had a chance to fully recognize it, this is what my 5yo yelled:

“Look, Ma, that boy is brown like me!”

The thing is, he didn’t stop there.

“His head is brown, like mine. His arms are brown, like mine. Do you think his legs are shaped like mine too? I think we’re twins!”

Yes, Jack and Jill were brown. He was so excited, all I could do was smile. Moments later, I was a bit sad. If he was this excited, this also meant that he’d noticed a lot of the things he watched had characters that didn’t look like him. Mind you, children’s television has lots of animal and inanimate object characters. That sort of equals the playing field. However, if those same animal and inanimate objects typically have grey or blue eyes, it’s kind of implying the same thing.
Some people think that when we call for diversity, we want to do away with what has typically been the norm. That’s not the case. We want the norm to be more inclusive. We want to share the spotlight. We want our children to see they can be and do anything too.
This experience reminded me of why I am striving to become a published picture book author. I know that I won’t be able to control the artwork, as I’m not an illustrator. But, I will work tirelessly to write stories that may help to widen the types of representations that are available for young kids to see. It’s time for diversity to go beyond being an idea in our heads and something we can tangibly see. Isn’t there a common saying that goes something like  “You have to see it to believe it.” Well, I’m already at the believing part, and I am truly ready to see it.

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Snowballs, Icebergs, and Reality Checks of Writing

To those of you currently battling snow of epic proportions, I apologize if the title alone made you roll your eyes. However, I promise that no other title was better suited. Compared to others, my writing journey is still in the beginning stages. Yes, I have had some wins along the way, but in regards to time, I haven’t been at this for multiple years.
Snowballs
When you see announcements of others striking multiple book deals, it is easy to loudly applaud them while internally wishing you could pelt them with an arsenal of snowballs. After all, you want to take them down, not actually hurt them. It’s hard to not be jealous. You want your name announced. You want your book on shelves. You want a spot on the illustrious bookshelf of the chosen few.
But, here’s something to keep in mind: While you were busy wallowing in your melting snowball arsenal, you missed all of the grunt work that someone else was doing.
Icebergs
Ah, the iceberg of success. If you’ve ever tried to reach any type of goal, this image should be burned into your brain. As writers who have not yet tasted the sweet fruit of success (and the type and taste of said fruit will vary from writer to writer), we must keep in mind that we are likely unaware of the setbacks, missteps, and failures that another writer has had to endure. We are likely too much in awe of acquisitions announcement to even think about this sometimes.
Reality Checks
As much as you want a rea l check, don’t discount the importance of a good ole reality check. For me, I had to ask myself if I was doing all that I could to improve my craft. Was I seeking enough critiques from quality critique partners? If I wasn’t happy with the critiques I was receiving, was I actively seeking to get better feedback elsewhere? Was I using my time wisely? Was I paying attention to what was selling? Was I using mentor texts?
See, there are plenty of things to do to make sure that you’re crafting the best manuscripts that you can. Besides, I don’t want to just be on a bookshelf. I want to leave a mark on the entire library. Back to work!
 

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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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