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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Get in, kid me, we’re going to Florida!

As promised, here’s the Scholastic post.

My childhood highlights consist mostly of book related things–reading books of all kinds, spending recess re-shelving books, the Book-It program, and the Scholastic Book Fair.

I often think about kid me when I am writing or coming up with ideas. I wonder if she would be proud of what I’ve written so far. And since she was a bit of a perfectionist, I often wonder if she thinks I’m playing it safe with my writing and need to take it a step further.

Here’s what I do know about kid me: She would have had her tiny backpack filled and ready seconds after getting the email asking if I was interested in doing a promo video for the Scholastic Book Fairs.

IF?! Months before, I thought it wouldn’t get any better than having NOT QUITE SNOW WHITE be a part of the book fairs starting in the Fall of 2020. Just a week after getting this mind-blowing email in early March, I was boarding a plan and headed to Florida.

Was I nervous? Goodness, yes! Did I show it? Goodness, no! Honestly, like Tameika in NOT QUITE SNOW WHITE, I had a moment of doubt. I wondered if I wasn’t quite right to be the one being flown out to places, having car service, shooting promo videos and the like. I wondered if they’d made a mistake and actually wanted someone more important who had been writing for longer and made a larger impact in the kidlit industry.

They got me in all of my goofy glory, and they were okay with that. Thanks to the Scholastic team for making me feel comfortable and special (At the same time!) and Quinn from Theater West End for granting us use of his gorgeous theater (more on everything I loved about the theater later).

Where will my writing journey take me to next? I have NO idea. What I do know is that I’m going to continue to write, and maybe I’ll soar past my wildest writing dreams.

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This Little Light of Mine

I’ve had some good things happen lately–REALLY good things. Still, I’ve had a strange feeling that I have no right to celebrate these good things. It’s a nagging, internal voice that asks a simple, yet powerful question: How could you?

How could I enjoy and celebrate personal gains when the world is in an extreme state of disarray? Fine. I’ll be realistic. The world right now is scary and chaotic. I had a great opportunity arise related to Not Quite Snow White (and I promise I’ll blog about that super soon). Instead of taking time to bask in how great the opportunity made me feel, I was filled with anxiety.

My mind was in a constant state of turmoil. I mean, it truly outdid itself this time: I’ll have to travel to do it. But, I wouldn’t have to travel too far. It would be a short trip. Then again, I need to have gallbladder surgery soon. Is it even safe to travel? Of course I need to do this. This is the dream come true. But what if chasing dreams turns into a nightmare and I bring this mysterious illness back to my family. My kids have asthma! What kind of a mother am I? But…isn’t this a great opportunity for us? Or…honestly, is this selfish to do right now?

Did I make the right decision? I made a decision. That was hard enough. So, I’ve decided not to dwell on whether or not it was right or wrong. I feel like there are too many variables at play, and I made the decision with the support of my family.

What does this vague story have to do with anything? Coronavirus is unsettling, unnerving, and it has made many of us feel unstable. We’re taught to look for the light at the end of the tunnel. In our current situation, that may be easier said than done.

For my own sanity’s sake, I’ve had to shift my thinking. At my grandma’s church, they used to sing this song: “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.

Even the smallest of lights can beat back the darkness. Whatever brings you the smallest bit of joy, that you can still safely enjoy, do it! With each additional thing that you do, your light will shine a bit brighter. Protect your light. Find your energy source. And remember, we are practicing social distancing, but this doesn’t mean that you’re alone. Stay connected. Stay radiant.

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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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