There is No Crying in Baseball

About two weeks ago, in the middle of a random Tuesday, I found myself crying. It wasn’t unprovoked, rather, it was in direct response to an unexpected situation that my brain, and my body were not prepared to process.

So, for about ten minutes, I lost it.

During the following hours (now weeks), I thought a lot about those tears, considering how I have been dealing with emotions over the last two and half years. Obviously, the stress and worry of the global pandemic, social uncertainty, and its ramifications have hit all of us in very, very, different ways. While I won’t claim to not have not been a crier before, I will say that it was an emotion not so close to the surface.

Then out of the blue I remembered Tom Hanks in A League of Their Own yelling “There’s no crying in baseball,” at the top of his lungs. While the character is flailing about because the women on his team are upset and he is unable to to deal with it, the sentiment still struck a chord. (Obviously, we know that people cry over sports all the time, but stay with me).

I realized, while the event precipitating the crying was upsetting, I was angrier at myself for losing it over something I was actively trying to be less emotional about. Just as Jimmy Dugan (Hanks’ character) was convinced crying was something you do.not.do. when playing a sport, I fought against a situation where crying also felt taboo.

And then my career coach, Kate (illustrating how well they know me) said—you need to write out your feelings. Which brings us here, to this piece, which ended up being less about me and my mental health, and more about crying, emotional language, and storytelling.

Continue reading “There is No Crying in Baseball”

Why I Write: Beyond Writer’s Block and Toward Meaningful Storytelling

Over the course of a writing retreat this past November I was listening to a MasterClass with the author Amy Tan. While sections of the course were directed to writers that were just getting started, I paid close attention to the lesson focused on writer’s block. 

While 2021 was so much better than 2020—and 2022 even better so far—I still found myself choosing to spend what spare time I had sitting on the couch watching television instead. I know we are not supposed to be hard on ourselves, to be thinking about missed opportunities from this ongoing pandemic— after all, we can’t all be Brandon Sanderson—but I can’t help but consider how much of my real blocks are about more than just the state of the world. 

During this lesson Tan talks about writing rituals, about methods to block out distractions, and then she looks straight at the camera and says: “Ask yourself: Why did you decide to become a writer in the first place?” 

Her purpose, of course, was to encourage us to move past the imposter syndrome that leads into a cycle of NOT writing. To remind you about what the initial impetus was for first putting pen to paper. 

A quotation propped against one of the bookshelves at my writer’s retreat.
Continue reading “Why I Write: Beyond Writer’s Block and Toward Meaningful Storytelling”

2022. Hello Forty.

Over the last ten years I have shared—on or around January 1st—a vision for my future. These have never been ordinary resolutions. Instead I wrote mantras, hopes, and wishes for what I want my life to stand for, what I want it to mean. More often than not I talked about taking risks and leaps, harnessing optimism, searching for kindness, and in some of our tougher years, encouraged myself to dig deep for a well of defiance.

Earlier this week, as I continued to think about how to approach this piece, I saw a suggestion (by an old high school friend) to not look to resolutions, but rather to make a list of things you were proud of in 2021. So here’s my list:

Glittering poles with flowers and greeneries and shoes as witnesses to lives lost.
“Come, Take a Moment” is an installation by Devon Shimoyama meant to encourage visitors to the Arts and Industries Building’s exhibition called The FUTURES to pause and reflect on the “tumult and tragedy brought on by racial violence and the COVID-19 pandemic.”

We all know it wasn’t an easy year, but unlike 2020 it had moments of brightness made possible by the COVID-19 vaccine. I know taking a vaccine is an odd thing to list as an accomplishment, but when belief in our ability as humans to take care of each other feels like a challenge, taking the three shots in 2021 felt like something I could do not only for myself, but for others. More selfishly, taking the vaccine allowed me to hug family, and friends, and to fly across the country to meet my new nephew just days after he was born.

Continue reading “2022. Hello Forty.”

Living with Intention in 2021

Over the course of ten months, from March to December 2020, I walked almost 152 miles listening to podcasts, audio dramas, and 15 books about a female detective named Maisie Dobbs. This series, about a former nurse turned psychologist and investigator who solves crime, is set against the backdrop of post-War (and eventually the start of World War II) England. Through her cases, we learn about repercussions from World War I, the 1918 flu epidemic, social unrest, anti-refugee sentiment, and as Dobbs becomes more involved with British Secret Service, the growing threat of the Nazi regime.

View of woods in Virginia.
A view from a hidden wood near my home. For so many nature brought a level of peace in the madness.

As I walked at sunrise, sunset, lunchtime breaks, and post work wind-downs I couldn’t help feel, as time slowly slipped by, the looming disaster to come. I knew it wasn’t only of the fictional (yet historical) world created by Jacqueline Winspear, but also the constant hum of chaos that was 2020.

There are no real positive things to say about this past year. In a lot of ways our fault lines and the cracks in our civic society have been laid bare for all to see. There was so much death and pain, that I often struggled to find a silver lining.

Continue reading “Living with Intention in 2021”

2020.

Every January I take a moment to consider the year we left behind with the hopes of taking any lessons and thoughts forward into a clear-eyed vision for how I want to live.

But 2019 was a year of contradiction.

20190414_124339.jpg
Just hanging out on the Millennium Falcon next to Darth Vader. No big deal. | Credit: Priya Chhaya

On one hand, I built a track focusing on Celebrating Women’s History at my annual conference, something that included a session that ended up on CSPAN, not to mention a keynote at the glorious Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado (see below).  I bought a home. I capped off an almost twenty-three year love of a little space opera by attending Star Wars Celebration in Chicago. I spent time with my amazing, wonderful, caring family with nieces and a nephew that I watch grow with awe.

But it was also a difficult year. Not just because of the state of affairs beyond our control (you know, the world), but also because I was forced to address the balance between realities and my glass-half-full perspective on my daily life. I had to confront my own understanding of what makes me happy and to push myself in a way that was, and continues to be, hard.

Continue reading “2020.”

On Cultural Heritage & Loss

Sometimes I feel like my brain is filled with puzzle pieces. Separate and distinct elements that fit together into something bigger, something essential, some larger than life truth that only I can pull together

This latest puzzle has been a tough one to crack. Like any good puzzler I have been looking for the connections. The similar pieces—those with flat edges, or colors that appear to mesh in just the right way.

The elements of the puzzle are widespread. They include the near destruction of the Cathedral of Notre Dame, Susan Orlean’s The Library Book and the damage to swaths of intangible heritage with the Universal Music Group fire, where the masters of a whole range of popular (and lesser known) music were engulfed in a flame. There is an even clearer picture when you toss in elements from Yesterday and the The Band’s Visit into the fray.

20130404_143055
Gargoyle’s look out over Paris from their perch on Notre-Dame in 2013. | Credit: Priya Chhaya

And perhaps all of these are funnels into my reaction to the film The Last Black Man in San Francisco, which collectively summarizes the idea of loss and cultural heritage in a single remarkable package. Continue reading “On Cultural Heritage & Loss”

2019. Begin As You Mean to Go On

This was a year where I saw the endless sky above Montana, smelled the ravages of fire in California, and stood at the edge of the fantastic, sensing and savoring the sublime magnificence of edges along the Grand Canyon.

20180416_143959
At the Grand Canyon. April 2018. | Credit: Priya Chhaya

Continue reading “2019. Begin As You Mean to Go On”

On Doorways and the Love of Libraries

At the start of the sixth annual Tolkien Lecture on Fantasy Literature author V.E. Schwab described how a co-panelist stated that J.R.R. Tolkien’s novels were required reading for anyone venturing into the world of fantasy – both as a writer and a reader. In response Schwab,

…told the man on the panel I had never read Tolkien, and he looked at me not with derision exactly, but with such open astonishment, as if wondering how I found my way into that chair, onto that panel, into the building, onto the pages of books, without him. And I simply said, “I found another door.”

20180915_190535
My librarian mom, retired! | Credit: Priya Chhaya

That simple statement has been tumbling about my head for a number of days as I tried to remember what served as my entree into the world of books and reading. I knew what pushed me towards the fantasy genre, but there was no singular book that made me realize that I valued and loved the written word.

However, even though the actual door was a long-faded memory, I will never forget the architect: my mother.  Continue reading “On Doorways and the Love of Libraries”

Twenty-Seventeen

20170114_172305
A quotation from the walls of the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

I am
afraid. Folded in by the weight
of postcards and calls
links and 140 characters.
Always thinking about the invisible scales of equality  
between the unborn, the refugee, the immigrant, and those not living in privilege.

I am
certain that I have fingers
toes, a heart with blood pumping
slowly through my veins
as do you,
and them,
and us, but those that lead find
different ways to say
You Don’t Belong.

I question
my ability
my strength for this
test.
Yet I know that one cannot expect miracles
And God cannot do all the work

And so

Although I am afraid, I am certain. Although I question, I am ready.
I can be brave. I must be brave. I will be brave.


20160407_195608
Pulitzer Prize winning author Anthony Doerr put up this panel during his talk for the Arlington County Library. I wrote about that talk here.

Whenever I begin writing my annual New Year’s post I take a look at what I wrote the year before. Here is what I said in January 2016:

Continue reading “Twenty-Seventeen”

Dream Gardens: Talking Number the Stars with Jody Mott

I’m sure everyone is on the edge of their seats waiting for my annual New Year’s Post.

This isn’t it.

I’m struggling a bit this year – trying to find a way to stay optimistic and see the promise of the future in a world that feels like it’s gone a little bit crazy. And then there was my two-week cold that pretty much demanded a lack of productivity.

All that being said I did one thing in the early part of this month that was interesting and new. As many of you know in January of last year I published a children’s book called The Heart of the River. When I did that I also joined the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). It’s a great organization that supports its members by providing resources and marketing through events like the Book Blast (here’s my page which will be live for another week or so).

number-the-stars Continue reading “Dream Gardens: Talking Number the Stars with Jody Mott”