|SHANNON ANDERSON Children's Book Author, Teacher, Presenter||
I’m at a writing conference in Philadelphia and am staying on a campus in a dorm. So many thoughts swirled in my head last night about getting my classroom ready for the school year, missing my family, trying to figure out how I'm going to do all of the things I've learned at this conference, finding time to write all of the stories I have ideas for, and figuring out what to add to my blog. My thoughts even took me to the white duck in the pond on the campus here. The poor little guy is all alone, swimming around all day by himself every time I see him. It was hard to sleep with so many stray thoughts.
When my alarm went off at 5:30am, I was not excited about waking up. I’m normally a morning person, but I run every other day and I did not run yesterday. I could also hear rain hitting the window. Ugh.
It would have been really easy to reason away why I shouldn’t have to run. I’m at a conference, it’s raining, it’s hilly, and I’m so tired. I should maybe set the alarm for another hour so I can be more alert in my sessions today.
Blessings at Mile 0: Deciding to get up and do it anyway. I climbed out of bed and got my running clothes on. Before I left my room, I checked my email. The top email was from Hawaii, from a man that asked me to contribute to a book about kindness. Today was book release day! Fun news!
Blessings at Mile 1: The rain feels awesome in the warm air. As I turn on the road leading around a chapel, there in the grass, was a flock of geese. They were calm and seemed to be socializing and enjoying their time together. In the middle of the flock was the little white duck. He has friends! I smiled the rest of that mile knowing he had someone to hang out with.
Blessing at Mile 2: As you could probably guess, I’m an animal lover. The blessing in this mile was a group of baby and mama deer peacefully grazing by some trees. They seemed completely unphased by me running by.
Blessing at Mile 3: My route took me back by the pond. There swam the little white duck, again by himself. Maybe he is like me and enjoys fellowship with others as much as he enjoys his alone time in the pond. This made me smile too.
Blessing at Mile 4: I started seeing people heading to breakfast and realized my running time was up. I made it 4 miles and feel great. Time for a shower, some good food, and I guess I figured out a blog post to write!
Enjoy life's simple blessings.
From when I was little, I always loved having my own little nook or cave to retreat to and write. From huge cardboard boxes, to forts, to cleaning out half of my closet to use as a hideaway “office.” I loved having my own secret little spot. I would decorate it, stock it with paper, pens, markers, a desk, chair, and light. Some things never change.
Once I started writing more seriously, a corner of a room in our house became my writing space. I found the perfect chairs, a little table, and surrounded the space with inspirational art, quotes, pictures, and momentos from writing events. It proved to be a comfortable happy place.
There were just a few problems. I shared the room with the piano and our home computer, so I wasn’t always alone. The room was right next to the living room, so if the TV was on, I could hear it. There was no lock on the door, so my clever cat, Tucker, who can open lever handles, always opened the door to let all of our pets in to “see” me. To some, this may seem like minor nuisances, but I had a hard time focusing.
Many year ago, my husband and I had an amazing playhouse built in our backyard for our girls. It was sided and designed to look like a mini-version of our home. It also has electricity, an air conditioner for the summer, and a space heater for the winter. We insulated it, installed windows, and carpeting. My mom made curtains and we filled it with a kitchen set, Barbie houses, a table and chairs, and even a tv/dvd player for movies. If I would have had this when I was a kid, I don’t know if I would have ever come back in the house!
My girls are now in 7th and 11th grades. This past summer was the first summer that the playhouse was not played in once. Our original plan was to turn the playhouse into storage once the girls outgrew it. As I thought about the possibilities, my wheels started spinning about a writing cottage. I had seen all kinds of cool “She Sheds” on TV and on Pinterest. Artists have studios. Could I have my own personal writing shack? Once I was cleared to remove the toys and take over, the fun began. I ripped out the carpet, added another window, put down hard-wood flooring and a rug, brought my writing chairs out, ordered a writing table and lamp, and started painting.
I cannot tell you how much I love this space. I have all of my books, poems, and magazine publications out here, cards of encouragement people have given me up on the wall, books I love to read, books that help me become a better writer, and all of my current writing projects. I have a window that my chair and desk both face, overlooking a tree with bird feeders and birdhouses. As I sit here, I feel very blessed to have this cozy space to do what I love.
If you're like me, it doesn't take much to get distracted from my writing with something else on my to-do list. Although writing is a passion that I love to do, my kids need to go places, meals need cooked, schoolwork needs to be planned, and the calendar is always full.
If only I could get away for a week and work on that novel. The one that's been sitting patiently for a few years for me to give it more attention than the occasional read-through.
When I heard my writing friends talk about the Highlights Foundation Workshops, I had hopes to go someday. I even signed up once, only to have to cancel because of other obligations.
This summer I finally flew off to Pennsylvania, with my manuscript loaded on my laptop. I can tell you that this place is everything others have raved about. You have your own cabin surrounded by beautiful scenery. There are amazing chefs that cater to your every need, and an ice-cream freezer in the barn open around the clock. (For those of you that know me, you know that was a happy bonus!)
I signed up for a small group workshop on novel writing. You can sign up for any genre you want to work on, or even sign up for an "un-conference" and just write. We kicked off each day with breakfast and great instruction in the mornings, enjoyed a wonderful lunch, learned some more, and then -the best part- had afternoons filled with writing time. We met for dinner and shared our writing in the evenings. It was a perfect balance of learning, sharing, reflecting, and writing. A writer's dream.