Top 5 Things Running a Sacramental Program During a Pandemic Taught Me About Creating

1. Revising Down to Essentials

I had to think like the kids and the parents in my community, in other words I really had to know both my ‘story’ and my audience.

Social distancing and other restrictions meant less meetings and no small group activities. It was pretty much me lecturing. Boring! So I had to find alternative methods of getting key points across, relating content to Lockdown experiences, class work, sports or other leisure activities I know they enjoy.

I had to think like the kids and the parents in my community, in other words I really had to know both my ‘story’ and my audience.

2. Valuing the Richness (and finding different ways to include it or lamenting its loss

Once I had decided what those essentials were and felt I would adequately, repeatedly have them heard, then I was able to look ‘on the cutting room floor’ as it were. I had to decide what had I cut out which I definitely wanted to find a way to include and could I get this across in some other way. Props (like a prayer space) Probing or Rhetorical Questions, In between meeting activities, Emails, Suggested Websites and YouTube clips, I used them all.

I have little way of knowing how many people used/read/viewed these, understood their purpose/message, saw any value in them, but isn’t that the way with any creative piece? Where I could not add another thing in, I simply had to lament the loss of some rich and beautiful imagery. In other words, I had to ‘kill my darlings’.

3. Being Flexible and Kind

Ahh this was my possibly my biggest personal growth area. Working with people with many varying degrees of faith who often turn up for the Sacramental Program, many a time quite grudgingly and then never turn up again, can leave you cynical and overly righteous. Now, several of them couldn’t come to the already reduced compulsory meetings due to being unwell. In a pandemic, I had no choice but to give them the benefit of the doubt. Then I would offer private catch ups and to my surprise, these were always taken up and more often than not with genuine humility and gratitude. These proved the most rewarding sessions as the children especially were full of interest and questions.

Still, they did take up a lot of time and energy and I had to take greater note of how this was affecting me, my energy levels and my behaviour at home. Luckily, I have a competent, understanding and supportive family, who allowed me to vegetate while they took over the running of the household. It took me some time to accept this assistance without guilt, but I realised that sometimes the person we (especially creatives) need to be kind to is ourselves.

4. Dragging Yourself and Others Through

As Covid threw up obstacle after obstacle, there were times (restrictions, cases, tests and waiting on their results- including our priest in the week before the actual First Holy Communion) when I found myself mentally and emotionally dragging myself and others through- ‘Yes, I understand, perhaps we could try this’, ‘ I could see you at such and such a time’, ‘I can email… drop a Flash Drive in your letter box….’ I had to think outside of the box and just keep on finding solutions, alternatives, possibilities.

This reminds me so much of the journey to publication, as rejection after rejection or worse unrelenting silence meet my submissions, I simply have to find other ways, publishers, stories and keep trying.

5. Celebrating Unplanned Successes

Considering the vast majority of the program should have been completed in the Lockdown period and we now had two and a half months to complete a four month program, its culmination over the last two weekends with 35 gorgeous children, their amazing parents and our incredible team of ‘Young Adults’ who sang, photographed, Live-streamed, administered Communion (if they were Ministers of the Eucharist) and even collected money on the plate was an unmitigated success which I am still happy dancing about now!

This year I’ve found small creative successes in a place I’ve never planned on looking for it, with my renewed interest in art. I have found greater confidence and no expectation allowing me to play and experiment and even mould my previously uncooperative, grubby-work-making fingers willing to glue delicately and neatly. One work was even published! For anyone who hasn’t seen it yet, check out my Fairy Tale Memories in the New Writers Group Inc. Pop Up Zine https://nwg-inc.com/word/?page_id=4347

And a bonus point, cause who doesn’t love a bonus?

Sometimes all the pomp and ceremony isn’t needed or possibly even wanted by those we think we’re doing it for. Keeping it simple can often be better- more meaningful, accessible, poignant… I’m a Picture Book Author and I’m discovering that often the ‘bells and whistles’ are more for me than the kids, I really must remember that… how about you?

Posted in Creativity, Organisation, Professionalism, Road to Publication, Submitting For Publication, Uncategorized, Writer's Conditions | 2 Comments

Proudly Seizing the Day

Dear Fellow Children’s Writers and friends,

Where did June go? Don’t ask me! 🤷‍♀️ It was quite a transitional time for me as I began to emerge from our communal-stay-at-home-holiday; all be it rather tentatively; still not keen on shopping, or frequenting restaurants, but glad to be back at work. Still, June is gone and I did not want to see July slip away too without touching base. So how have you found adapting to life in these remarkable times, creatively, of course? I sincerely hope you and yours have all stayed healthy and safe.

Do you find a return of your mojo? See it as an opportunity to stretch your artistic muscles, whether creatively or appreciatively or perhaps both. I suspect you may like me have been joyfully inundated and none too proud of all the opportunities introduced and offered by our KidLit community both to each other and to our beloved audience.

What with Podcasts, Zoom Meetings, Midday Storytimes, online launches, homeschooling activities made available often for free, there’s certainly been no shortage of creative opportunities and outlets available to us, or families with kids learning at home, in what, let’s face it could have been and no doubt for some of us, financially, has been a trying time. (let alone any emotional baggage we may be carrying)

But now, I’m heading towards a little downer and that was definitely not the aim of this post. So what has Journeygirl been up to in June and July? June mainly saw me back teaching and nearing the end, also back at my Sacramental Coordinator role in the parish. Still, by now I was on a roll with both decluttering and writing as well as critiquing for my Creative Kids Tales Critique Group, so the last two months have been Busy with a capital B. Busy, but satisfying, with several online launches attended, two rounds of critiques completed (8 critiques and 2 of my mss critiqued by others) one Junior Fiction ms first draft completed, two courses completed, one new NF PB written as a result of one of those courses, one fellowship applied for as a result of the other, (thanks Aleesah Darlison and Karen Tyrell) two rooms fully decluttered and rearranged, two competitions entered, 3 mss submitted for assessment, one amazing Writing Bootcamp experience, one awesome online Conference over three Saturdays (thanks CYA for an incredible job and my family for giving me these full days to myself) and countless online Storytimes either fully or partially watched.

As you can see, Biizzzy! No, I’m not trying to blow my own trumpet, well maybe a little. Hey, I’ve achieved a lot and I’m quite proud of that 😁 and sometimes we creatives ought to say that out loud. The main reason I’m sharing all this, is to say that the Children’s Book Industry has stepped up so much and in so many ways over the last few months and it would almost seem ungrateful if I hadn’t too. There’s been and still are many opportunities out there for creatives, aspiring, emerging and experienced to support each other and to progress their own skills, dreams and careers. So, if you’re feeling a little stuck or just haven’t been aware, look around and grab hold of one of these opportunities with both hands! Pull yourself up and on to the road you want to travel. Answer the door when opportunity knocks- sure, but also seek opportunities out for yourself.

They’re not hard to find and they’re just waiting for you to grab hold.

So fellow travellers, stay safe in these extraordinary times, but don’t let them stop you seizing those opportunities,

Farewell for now,

Savour the quest,

Journeygirl.

Posted in Networking, Road to Publication, Work/Life Balance, Writing Conferences, Writing Groups | 4 Comments